by Dr. Robert Rosenberg, medical adviser to SoClean
Each year, daylight saving time occurs at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March. This shift can impact our precious sleep and even put our overall health and well-being at risk.
Studies have shown a slight increase in the number of car accidents in the first week of the spring forward to daylight saving. Additionally, some years have seen up to a 24 percent increase in the number of heart attacks during the first Monday of this yearly event. Conversely, doctors notice a sharp decrease in the amount of heart attack-related hospital visits (a 21 percent dip) when clocks turn back in the fall. All this to say that extra sleep time can have quite a significant impact on our health.
Don’t let daylight savings time derail you
Daylight savings falls on March 8th this year, and with just a few simple tweaks, your sleeping schedule can remain intact in spite of losing that extra hour.
Start going to bed about 20 minutes earlier each night: In preparation of March 8th, try going to bed earlier than you ordinarily would for two or three days beforehand. If you can get into the habit of falling asleep about 20 or 30 minutes earlier for a day or two, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble sailing through daylight saving time.
Seek the sunshine: Let’s hope for a sunny day on March 8. Because that morning when you wake up, get out of the house and expose yourself to bright sunlight immediately after waking. You will also want to open the blinds as soon as possible. If you do these things within the first hour of waking up, you should find it easier to fall asleep earlier. This is the primary goal, since prior to daylight saving time, you were falling asleep an hour later. This is known as advancing your circadian rhythms. In sleep-speak, “advance” means to get yourself to an earlier hour.
Maintain sleep hygiene year ’round: To cope with the effects of daylight saving, there are some general best practices that you will want to apply year ’round. Avoiding electronics before bed (yes, this means your phone), as the blue light emitted from electronic devices is interpreted by our bodies as daylight. This interferes with our circadian rhythm, keeping us up later than we should be.
Take deep a breath: Or a few! Focus on your breathing and on the simple and soothing action of flexing and unflexing your muscles: This is the perfect way to relax before bed. Reading, listening to music and talking to your partner can also help you fall asleep easier.
Though many people comment that it takes weeks to adjust to the time difference, it doesn’t have to take this long, or put your health at risk. If you follow the above advice, your biological clock and circadian rhythm should be back to normal and your body should be adjusted to the new time change within a day or two.
Want to learn more about the science of sleep and how to sleep better? Here are 26 things you’ll probably be surprised to learn about the activity we all engage in each day.