Daylight saving time, the yearly practice of setting clocks forward one hour between March and November, has been observed in much of the United States since 1966. The idea behind DST is to “save” natural light, since spring, summer and early fall days typically get dark later in the evening compared to late fall and winter days. The non-DST period between November and March is known as standard time.
When DST starts at 2 am on Sunday, March 13, we’ll set our clocks forward one hour, resulting in one less hour of sleep that night. Then, at 2 am on Sunday, Nov. 6, we’ll set our clocks back one hour.
While adjusting the time by one hour may not seem like too drastic a change, sleep experts have noted troubling trends that occur during the transition — particularly in March when we “spring forward.” The change can impact your mood and overall health, increasing your risk for gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches and joint pain, blood sugar and insulin system disruption, high blood pressure, seizures and hallucinations. Diminished sleep also can create problems during sleep, causing sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other sleep disorder symptoms.
“With most adults needing seven to eight hours of good quality sleep every 24 hours, when we lose even one hour, we build up a sleep debt that can impair our performance and be detrimental to our health,” said pulmonologist and sleep medicine physician Dr . Madhu Kalyan, of Northwest Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine Center. “The only way to pay off this debt is to get
dr Kalyan suggests these simple actions you can take in advance of the time change to help ease the transition and enhance your health over time:
• Gradually alter your bedtime. Two to three days before the transition to DST, consider waking up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual. Then, on the Saturday before the time change, set your alarm clock back by an additional 15-20 minutes. Adjusting your wake-up time in steps can help the body make a smoother transition when the time change occurs.
• Practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to practices that can influence sleep for better or worse. To ease the time change transition, refrain from consuming alcohol before bed. While drinking can cause you to feel sleepy initially, alcohol also causes sleep disruptions and poor sleep quality.
• Establish a consistent sleep routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day — including the weekends — is a healthy practice that can also prepare you for time changes.
• Spend time outdoors. Exposure to natural light can alleviate feelings of tiredness that often accompany time changes. Spending time outside during the day also suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for bed.
• Nap in moderation. People who experience sleep debt as a result of DST may find some relief by taking short naps during the day. Limit naps to 20 minutes or less; otherwise, you may wake up feeling groggy. Rather than adjusting your wake-up time on Sunday morning of the time change, consider a nap that afternoon instead.
• Avoid caffeine too close to bedtime. Studies have found caffeine consumed within six hours of bedtime can disrupt your sleep cycle. Moderate amounts of caffeine in the morning or early afternoon should have less of an effect on your sleep.
“Getting enough quality sleep makes a difference in your overall health and that amount changes as you age,” Dr. Kalyan said. “Better sleep habits may help if you’re not feeling fully rested when you wake up. However, if you’re experiencing symptoms of a sleep disorder such as being tired during the day or snoring while you sleep, it’s important to share that information with your physician.”
Is it time to see a doctor?
If, after using these techniques, you find yourself struggling to stay awake, have difficulty concentrating, remembering things or notice a loss of motivation, you might be one of the approximately 70 million Americans who experience non-DST-related sleep disorders, and it might be time to seek assistance from a medical professional. To find a physician or learn more about your sleep health, visit NW-Physicians.com or call 833-757-9355.
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About Northwest Physicians
Northwest Physicians, an affiliate of Northwest Health, includes a team of skilled and compassionate physicians, advanced practice providers and support staff from a variety of specialties dedicated to a common purpose — to provide patients with expert medical care that’s easy to access. With more than 30 locations throughout Northwest Arkansas and online scheduling with many providers, it’s easier than ever to connect with a Northwest physician. Extended hours and online check-in are both provided at the organization’s urgent care centers. For more information, visit NW-Physicians.com.