How Daylight Saving Time Affects Sleep Health
The clock springs forward again for daylight saving time (DST) on Sunday, March 8th.
While it’s exciting to finally see longer days and warmer weather, this change can be a difficult transition for some people.
Not only that, but “losing” an hour of sleep in the spring is actually more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall.
It’s important to plan ahead and make your transition into daylight saving time easier come Monday morning.
The History of Daylight Saving Time
Why did we invent this seemingly troublesome clock change in the first place?
The Canadian government introduced daylight saving time in 1918 as a way to increase production during WWI.
The idea is that during the months when the sun stays visible longer, daylight could be saved for use after supper, such as shopping and recreational activities.
Then the practice ended at the end of WWI, but resumed with the start of WWII.
The provinces became involved, passing different time legislation and since 1987, DST has been regulated by the provincial, territorial and municipal government.
Currently, most of Saskatchewan, British Columbia and some locations in Quebec don’t follow DST and stay on standard time all year.
How Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Health
Changing the clock doesn’t create extra daylight. It simply shifts the time the sun rises and sets.
This can cause disruptions to your internal body clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm, which can affect your health in the following ways:
Lack of sleep
Setting your clock forward an hour for DST in the spring means losing an hour of sleep.
If you’re already somewhat sleep-deprived, foregoing just one hour of shuteye can negatively affect how you feel and function during the day.
A study analyzed 185,419 severe depression cases in Denmark psychiatric hospitals from 1995 to 2012. It showed an 11% increase after the daylight saving time transition.
It’s thought that the time change can make depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) worse because of the disruption to your circadian rhythm.
This is especially true for people who are already prone to depression.
Daylight saving time has been described as giving the entire nation one time zone’s worth of jet lag.
Studies have linked the start of DST in the spring with a brief spike in car accidents due to poor alertness, likely due to sleep loss.
A 2014 study by the University of Colorado looked at records of fatal car crashes in the United States. It noted a 17% rise in traffic accident-related deaths on the Monday after the clock change.
Those findings are similar to the results of research at the University of British Columbia.
The takeaway from all this? Even a small decrease in your sleep time can stress your body.
Are Pets Affected by Daylight Saving Time?
You might be surprised to find that our pets are more in tune with your schedule than you think.
Because DST shifts the time of your daily routine, their feeding or walking times shift as well.
If they are consistently fed at 6pm and suddenly their meal time is an hour later, some pets can become confused and grumpy.
To help your furry friends with the transition, you can change their routine little by little every day to get them used to the new schedule.
6 Tips for Dealing With Daylight Saving Time
To avoid a rough Monday after daylight saving time, it’s a good idea to practice good sleep hygiene.
Here are a couple of simple tips to help make this spring transition a little easier:
Adjust your bedtime
Set your alarm to wake up earlier than usual on the weekend before the DST switch. It’ll make getting up easier on Monday.
It’s also best to rise as early as possible on Sunday and avoid the urge to sleep in an extra hour in the morning.
Watch what you drink
It’s best to avoid alcohol on the weekend of daylight saving. While alcohol may make you drowsy, it disrupts your sleep cycle and overall quality.
Since you will already be dealing with a major sleep disruption, it might be best to avoid combining that with alcohol.
You should also try to avoid drinking any caffeinated beverages at least 4 - 6 hours before bedtime.
Eat a healthy breakfast
A healthy breakfast first thing in the morning can trigger your body to wake up and start the day.
It gives you long-lasting body fuel and the blood sugar needed after hours of starvation while sleeping.
Create a good sleep environment
Practicing good sleep hygiene will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep, wake up feeling refreshed.
You can create calming rituals before bed to gradually relax, like taking a hot bath, reading and meditating, to name a few.
Block out disruptive noise or light and avoid looking at any electronic screen.
Staying active during the day will help you get to bed earlier and enjoy more quality sleep.
But avoid exercising late in the evening since it can boost your energy, making it harder for you to wind down and go to bed.
Absorb some sun
Expose yourself to some bright, natural sunlight.
The bright light exposure will help get your circadian rhythm back on track, helping you wake up and feel more energized instantly.
Try eating breakfast in a bright area of your house or take your dog for a quick walk around the neighborhood.
All in all, don’t be alarmed if you catch yourself feeling out of sorts after the clock changes.
The good news is that these issues are the worst only the first 3 weeks.
But as your body’s circadian rhythm adjusts to the time change, the risk of these adverse experiences greatly reduces.
Our body may just need a little help to get there.
This daylight saving, get your TLC with our perfect memory foam mattress.