How Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Your Health In 2023?
Even though the time shifts by only an hour during daylight saving time, the effects on the body can be noticeable! Each year like clockwork, our patients become curious about the impact of the time change on their health and how it might disrupt their sleep schedule.
Daylight saving time is the annual practice of changing our clocks in the spring to use daylight better. Heading into the summer, we “spring forward” to shift an hour of daylight to the evening hours. When the temperatures drop, we “fall back” to standard time to add sunlight in the AM. We will tackle the five most common questions about daylight saving and time change to help you adjust more easily.
How does losing or gaining an hour of sleep affect my internal clock?
Losing or gaining an hour of sleep can ensure your internal clock is clear. Our bodies tell us when to go to sleep and when to wake up every day through an internal clock. This is extremely important for getting the rest we need, keeping our energy levels optimal and being as functional as possible in our everyday lives. So when daylight saving time comes along, that internal clock keeps working the same way while our lives are essentially undergoing a forced adjustment. This requires an adjustment from that internal clock which isn’t always fast.
When the time is shifting forward in the spring, try to get to bed a little earlier than usual and avoid staying up late. Following the daylight saving change, keep your regular schedule, including mealtimes, physical activities and wake-up time. This will help your body use these cues to adjust your internal clock to the time change.
During daylight saving, how will the later sunrises affect my sleep?
Daylight is the most important cue for setting our internal clock at the beginning of the day. About 15-30 minutes of sunlight exposure in the early morning can help us sync our clock to the time change faster. Also, if you’re having trouble adapting to the time change, try to limit sunlight exposure in the evening by wearing dark shades.
Can the time change affect my brain function?
You could experience symptoms similar to jet lag following the time change. Some people are sensitive to even small shifts in their schedule and may experience mental fogginess, decreased attention span and even mild mood disturbances such as irritability. Remember that these changes may affect those of us with baseline sleeping issues.
Are there any safety concerns associated with daylight saving time?
Studies have shown that daylight saving time corresponds to increased myocardial infarction or heart attacks. Disrupted sleep can make patients more vulnerable to heart and stroke. If you are at a higher risk for these issues, it is important to be mindful of the amount of sleep you are getting each night and factor in the time change to get the necessary rest.
Also, drivers should be attentive during the immediate daylight saving period. A joint study conducted by Johns Hopkins and Stanford University found a small increase in car crash deaths on the Monday after a switch to daylight saving time. Driving while sleep-deprived or sleepy can be dangerous, so make the extra effort during the week following daylight saving to minimize distractions in your vehicle and pay extra attention to the other drivers around you.
What are some ways I can adjust to the time change?
For most of us, after a small shift, our bodies will naturally adjust our internal clocks by 15 or 30 minutes per day. This means we’ll be back on track in just a few days. But to help this process, continue your usual daytime routines, including wake-up times, mealtimes, and exercise and you will be fine.
Another way to sync your body to the new time faster is to log some time exercising in the morning. This will expose your body to light and increase your internal core temperature, which will help wake your body up. And avoid taking naps immediately after the time shift so that you are tired and ready to sleep when bedtime comes around.
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