How to Survive the First Week of Daylight Savings Time

As clocks moved forward this Sunday, the abrupt loss of one-hour sleep can have significant effects on all of us.
An adequate duration and quality of sleep is necessary for optimal health and daytime function. The effect, this past Monday morning, is similar to each of us experiencing a one-hour jet lag moving eastward. The time change results in an abrupt reduction in sleep duration as well as sleep quality due to the anxiety of dealing with the change. 
Even an hour of sleep loss can promote measurable changes in level of alertness, cognition, and reaction time and population studies do show an increase in accident rates immediately following Daylight Savings Time. 
Daylight Savings changes the timing of the body’s underlying circadian rhythm. This rhythm guides several processes in the body, including hormone secretion, level of alertness and the sleep/wake cycle.
During this period, there is a natural desire to go to sleep about 1-2 hours later than usual, and then wake up about 2 hours later than usual. This is called a “Sleep Phase Delay,” shifting the entire sleep period to a later time. This is why it’s harder for people in their 20s to get to sleep at a “normal” time and wake up at a “normal” time.
By following these tips, the transition during Daylight Savings can be more seamless, and one’s body and circadian rhythm can successfully adjust in a week or less.

How can you deal with the time change? 

1. Take it easy this week

Be aware that it can take up to a week for your circadian clock to fully adjust to this change at that you may not be at your peak performance during this period. Thus, it may be particularly important for individuals who require maximal levels of alertness for their activities or decision making, to be aware that they may not be at their best. This can affect performance in the workplace, as well as contribute to drowsiness during one’s commute to/from work.

2. Stick to basic sleep hygiene rules

 Surrounding the change, it is also helpful to be especially diligent in following your usual good sleep habits, especially those affecting your circadian rhythm such as:   

  • Keep your regular bedtime and wake time (don’t adjust by an hour or two)
  • avoid bright lights (especially electronics) before bed.
  • Get lots of natural sunlight as soon as you can after waking.

How to prepare for the next time change at the end of daylight savings:

Of course, it’s always better to prepare in advance.

Don’t head into the change already carrying a sleep debt.  Try to get at least 7 hours a night for the days preceding the change, and continue to get this amount of sleep for several nights after the change. It may be helpful for sensitive individuals to begin gradually shifting their sleep/wake times for a few days prior to the change, say by advancing your sleep period 20 to 30 minutes a day for the 2 to 3 days prior.

Are you struggling to get enough sleep to feel rested during the day? Take this sleepiness quiz to see if you are at increased risk of a sleep disorder:

Sleepiness Quiz

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This post was written by Robert A. Lebby, M.D., FAASM, FCCP – Sleep MD and Consultant for Snore Report

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