Do you dread “springing forward” every March? Does “falling back” in November leave your sleep schedule a mess for days or even weeks? If so, you’re not alone. The sleep loss caused by the transition to daylight saving time (DST) can be a challenge. For some people, it can increase symptoms of sleep deprivation, making them feel more irritable, moody, and tired during the day.
If you typically struggle with the DST transition, there’s a scientific reason for this, but there are ways to lessen the negative effects on your body and mind. Fortunately, we have some sleep tips that will help you adjust. First, let’s take a closer look at how daylight saving time affects your sleep cycle and why it matters.
The United States has observed Daylight Saving Time since 1966, with the exception Hawaii and the majority of Arizona—the Navajo Nation in the northeastern part of the state does change its clocks. DST starts every second Sunday in March, when clocks are set ahead by one hour. Then, on the first Sunday of November, clocks are set back one hour, returning most of the US to standard time.
Although it doesn’t seem like losing one hour of sleep each March would have a major affect on mental and physical health, this time of year is associated with an uptick in insomnia, mood disorders, heart problems, and even car crashes — all of which highlight the potential effects DST can have on your health. A European study published in 2021 found that motorist accidents increased more than 51% when comparing the weeks before and after the March time change. This is consistent with a widely cited 2009 study that found that workers sustain more workplace injuries and injuries of greater severity on the Monday after the time change.
Time-change related sleep problems are less common after the November “fall back” time change, though some report difficulty adjusting to a new wake-up time.
Essentially, the transition from standard time to DST disrupts the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, known as your circadian rhythm. When this happens, your sleep gets misaligned, making you feel more tired and less alert during the day. After losing sleep to daylight saving time, your bedtime will feel earlier, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Your natural circadian rhythm is a 24-hour biological cycle that helps your body function. Although it’s an internal cycle, it can be influenced by the environment, particularly light in the morning and the darkness in the evening.
The circadian rhythm is meant to signal to your body when it is time to wind down and sleep, and when it is time to wake up. At around 9 p.m., your body starts secreting the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep. Melatonin levels start dropping off in the morning, promoting wakefulness and alertness.
Unfortunately, whenever this natural biological cycle is altered—like with jet lag or a time change—it creates a circadian misalignment, leading to lost sleep. The good news is that sleep research experts say it usually only takes a day or two for your body’s internal clock to adjust to the change. Some individuals may experience longer-term repercussions due to a so-called “sleep debt,” meaning adjustments can take as long as a few months.
While you can only lose one hour of sleep due to daylight saving time in the spring, the body can undergo real stress. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to serious health problems, but studies suggest sleeping less than 7 hours a night can produce unwanted side effects, such as:.
While completely avoiding sleep problems related to daylight saving time, there are ways to minimize their effect. One of the best ways to adjust is to prepare your body for the DST transition several days before it occurs. To do so, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally would and wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual. Continue shifting your sleep cycle15 minutes each day leading up to the daylight saving time change so your body will be relatively acclimated to the change once it occurs.
Also, make sure you are practicing good sleep hygiene. You should keep your bedroom dark at night to help with your body’s natural production of melatonin, and the temperature should be between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit while you sleep.
After DST starts, it will take some time for you to get your sleep habits back on track. Implementing the following tips will help:
Whether you’re struggling with sleep disruptions due to daylight saving time or something else, Sleep Reset can help you get your sleep habits back on track. Our convenient, affordable, and personalized sleep program is backed by scientific research and coupled with dedicated sleep coaching to help you establish sustainable sleep habits that will dramatically change your life for the better.
To get started, take our expert-designed assessment to identify the root causes of your sleep issues and learn more about your sleep patterns.