With daylight saving time beginning this weekend, sleep experts say patients can prepare for the loss of sleep by slowly shifting their bed time incrementally in the days leading up to “springing forward” on Sunday. 

Adjusting your body to the time change will not fully blunt the impact of daylight saving time. Sleep experts believe it’s not just the loss of an hour of sleep but the long-term impact of being on daylight saving time accounts for additional absences from work, increased incidence of atrial fibrillation and even car accidents. 

Daylight saving time disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms not only control a person’s sleep schedule but also impact bodily hormones, including thyroid and cortisol levels.

There is legislation in Congress to make daylight saving time permanent, meaning the clocks would remain on spring and summer time and not fall back for the fall and winter. While it may seem desirable to have more daylight hours while most Americans are awake, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advocates we permanently stay on standard time, because it is more in line with a person’s natural bio-rhymes and produces less negative health outcomes. 

“Our circadian rhythm is designed to be exposed to bright light when we get up in the morning, and it’s supposed to start getting darker in the evening, causing dim light melatonin secretion, which for most people starts around 7 pm,” says Adrian Pristas, MD, Hackensack Meridian director of sleep medicine, in a release. “If we have too much bright light in the evening, our body won’t produce the melatonin it needs to fall asleep in a timely manner, resulting in a negative health impact.”

For now, we will need to spring forward. Here are some tips to dull the impact of the time change this weekend and through November, when we return to standard time: 

  • Prepare for the time change now, by starting to gradually shift the time you go to sleep up by 15 minutes each day this week. 
  • You can also shift up your activities and meals (especially dinner) by the same time frame to allow the proper digestion and relaxation before bedtime. 
  • Make sure you are well rested this week. Going into daylight saving time already sleep deprived will exacerbate the negative health effects of the time change.
  • In the days immediately following daylight saving time, prioritize morning sunlight. Light is the central driver of circadian rhythm, getting sunlight exposure earlier in the day, and limiting it later in the afternoon and evening will allow our body clocks to more closely follow our natural circadian rhythm, even if the clock says otherwise.

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