Daylight saving time is approaching when you “spring forward” or turn your clocks an hour forward. Mornings will be darker, and evenings will have more light. Losing an hour of sleep not only can be annoying, but it also can affect your health.
Why do we have daylight saving time?
Daylight saving time first began in Germany in 1916 and came into effect in the U.S. March 19th, 1918. Although many people commonly think that daylight saving time was started to benefit farmers, it was actually started to “save daylight” or to use natural light as much as possible to conserve energy during World War I. Farmers actually fought for a repeal, but daylight savings time became policy again during World War II.
The policy has changed over time, with many states having their own policies. However, in 2005, the Energy Policy Act was enacted, noting that daylight saving time begins on the 2nd Sunday in March at 2:00 a.m. and ends on the 1st Sunday in November at 2:00 a.m. Many other countries also utilize daylight saving time. Only a few parts of the U.S. currently do not adjust to daylight saving time, but many have considered adjusting the policy.
Considerable debate exists as to whether it’s truly conserving energy. A study demonstrated that when Indiana adopted daylight saving time, electricity bills increased by $9 million per year and pollution emissions increased.
How “springing forward” affects sleep
The start of daylight saving time (“springing forward”) has more effects on our sleep and health than the end of daylight saving time (“falling back”). This more extreme effect is due to “losing” an hour in the spring. The night following the change to daylight saving time results in most people getting less sleep than they typically do.
Additionally, one of the key environmental cues that guides our sleep-wake cycles is light. So when this cue is abruptly changed, the effects can take a few days to adjust to.
Effects of changing to daylight saving time on health
In the few days after the change to daylight saving time, an increase in the following has been reported:
- Heart attacks (24% increased risk on the Monday following the time change)
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Workplace injuries
- Pregnancy loss with in vitro fertilization
- Missed medical appointments
The negative effects resolve over the first few days.
How to handle the change to daylight saving time
- For adults, plan to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night regardless of the time change (see “Are You Getting the Recommended Amount of Sleep?“)
- The few days to week prior to the start of daylight saving time, go to bed a little earlier (10-15 minutes) each night.
- If you can’t do the above, try to sleep in a little longer on Sunday or take an early afternoon nap on Sunday for 15-20 minutes before 3 p.m.
- Be sure that you are practicing good sleep habits
- Ensure the hour before bedtime is for relaxing (see “5 Things You Should be Doing the Hour Before Bedtime“)
- Ensure your sleep environment is set up to promote sleep (see “6 Ways to Optimize Your Sleep Environment“)
The first few days after the start of daylight saving time results in less sleep than we typically get. The reduction in sleep leads to negative health effects, but these effects quickly resolve after a few days when our sleep returns to normal.
Try to make some adjustments ahead of the time change to avoid sleep loss. Ensure that you are getting adequate sleep and practicing good sleep habits. Be alert and extra careful while driving, especially on the first few days after the change in time. Remember to never drive or participate in activities requiring a high level of attention if drowsy.
How did you feel after the time change? How long did it take to feel back to “normal?”