As spring rolls in, we’re adjusting our clocks one hour forward, and starting the much awaited daylight saving time. The extra sunshine and boost of Vitamin D may be a relief from the dark winter days but what does advancing an hour’s worth of time do to our bodies in the long run? Even more so for our sleep schedule? Our Sleep Experts are here to uncover the effects of daylight saving with us, and suggest useful tips so we can keep winning the days all season long:
Here Comes The Sun
A peculiar way of welcoming the new spring season, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting clocks forward one hour (1) between the months of March and November. The idea behind DST is to conserve – or “save” – natural light, in seasons where evening times are shorter. On the second Sunday of March, we set our clocks forward one hour at 2 a.m. resulting in one less hour of sleep that night. Then, wind the clock back one hour at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November.
This sudden change in our body clock can do a lot to our body and sleeping patterns. Especially when our cardiac rhythm – a complex coordination of biological rhythms which help our body function – is affected by the inconsistencies of light and dark accumulation. Sleep experts and researchers have found that people have a difficult time adjusting their body clocks when daylight saving starts. Multiple reports have shown an increase in insomnia-like symptoms and sleep problems during the months of March to April, when we misalign our circadian rhythms to natural cycles of light and darkness during DST.
The Effects of Daylight And Why It Matters For Sleep
Because of the sudden change in time, and less light in the mornings, waking up in the dark can prove challenging to our brains. Waking up to a dark sky and less sunlight, tricks the brain into thinking it's still night time, signaling our bodies to prolong our sleeping time. This could result in grogginess when the day starts. In the same way, shifting our clock times forward by one hour means extending daylight into evening hours. When we’re exposed to more light in the evening, our brain and circadian system may delay sleep, suppressing melatonin production which delays our body’s will to sleep. This evidently keeps us awake, longer hours into the night.
With our sleep schedule heavily reliant on our environment, how do we expect to get the right amount of sleep and rest, in the weeks ahead? Well, we’ve rounded up a few helpful tips to hopefully aid in adjusting to a new day’s sleep schedule.
Daylight Saving Tips To Ensure A Better Night’s Sleep
- Gradually Alter Your Bedtime: Sleep experts recommend waking up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual two to three days before the transition between Standard Time and DST to acclimate your body to the new schedule. Then, on the Saturday before the time change, set your alarm clock back by an additional 15-20 minutes – this’ll smoothen the transition when the time change occurs.
- Spend Time Outdoors: Since natural light is a driving force behind our circadian rhythms, exposing yourself to the sun early on in the day can help alleviate the groggy and sleepy feeling that comes with the sudden schedule change. Sunlight exposure also suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for bed.
- Nap in Moderation: Taking short naps in the afternoon have been proven beneficial to those who lose sleep due to DST. To avoid feeling groggy when you wake though, shortening these power naps to max 20 minutes is recommended as to not get your body fully accustomed to its rest mode.