Few people stop to consider the impact of daylight savings time beyond being happy that they gain an hour of sleep when fall comes.
However, there are many common misunderstandings related to the “spring forward, fall back” phenomenon and how it impacts our sleep patterns.
Understanding the true impact of daylight savings time on sleep can help you to optimize your sleep routine throughout the year, whether that means you start waking up early or stop snoring for good.
Myth: You Get an “Extra Hour” of Sleep in the Fall
Sleep experts have debunked the myth that you automatically get an extra hour of sleep during the fall time change.
Adaptation to the extra hour is highly individualized and relies principally on responses to light cues. Many people report feeling unrested and fatigued at the time of both spring and fall time changes, and unable to sleep in the “extra” hour even if time and circumstances allow.
It has been found that people who sleep less than seven and a half hours per night and people who usually wake up early suffer the most from the time changes associated with Daylight Savings.
The Deadly Impact of Daylight Savings Time
Opponents to Daylight Savings time have argued for years in favor of abolishing it based on its deleterious effects on individual health, increased mortality, and public safety in the broadest sense.
Studies have shown there is a significant increase in traffic accidents on the first weekday following the time change in both the spring and fall time changes, which is very likely related to people sleeping more or less due to the time change itself.
If you feel especially poorly rested around the weekend of the time change, the best idea may be to stay off the roads altogether.
The implications of Daylight Savings Time on physical health are significant, too. It has been found that the likelihood of having a heart attack is significantly higher on the Monday of the spring-forward time change.
Sleeping Habits and Daylight Savings Time
It is clear that Daylight Savings impacts our sleep schedule, and that the sleepiness associated with losing an hour of sleep can cause dangerous accidents and even life-threatening medical conditions.
However, Daylight Savings can throw off your sleep patterns in smaller ways, too. Though your sleep and eating patterns will shift an hour in one direction in spring or fall, it takes the body and the circadian rhythm up to a week to adjust to new circumstances.
This is similar to the sleep effects on people who fly on transcontinental flights, whose bodies may be affected for weeks at a time as a result of crossing six or more-time zones.
If you live in a geographical location that does follow daylight savings, the spring and fall time changes are an excellent opportunity to try to change your sleep patterns for the better permanently.
Whether you are trying to go to bed and wake up earlier each morning, or stop snoring and manage the symptoms of your sleep apnea for good, the time of the spring and fall time change are ideal to set these plans in motion.
The Duration of Time It Takes Your Body to Adjust
Anyone with a pet will know just how much they are affected by Daylight Savings Time. Blissfully unaware of the time change, they may surprise you by scratching at your door or meowing for their breakfast an hour earlier or later than when you would usually expect.
Humans tend to adjust to the impact of the time change relatively quickly. A number commonly quoted by scientists is that it should take one day for your body to adapt to the time change for every hour of difference. That means you should not be suffering the effects of the time change for days on end.
However, there is considerable variability between people, and certainly some people are far more affected by the time change than others.
How to Make the Time Change Easier
If you are one of those who suffers for several days from lack of sleep with Daylight Savings – especially at the springtime change where you may have to wake up an hour earlier – then there is something that you can do to mitigate the effect of this change on your life and your sleep patterns.
Many experts recommend slowly adjusting your sleeping and eating times in the week or two prior to the official date of the time change. This is a slower, gentler approach on the body and sleep patterns that allows for gradual adjustment to eating, sleeping, and doing other activities an hour earlier or later.
For example, for the two weeks preceding the spring time change, you may want to set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier, gradually progressing to 30 and 45 minutes earlier. By the time the Sunday time change rolls around, you will hardly notice it at all, and your sleep will likely go unaffected altogether.
Whether or not you support the concept of Daylight Savings Time, being aware of its impact on your sleep can help you stay safe and rested and prevent it from having a negative impact on your quality of life.
Chief editor here at Snore Nation and a proud father of two cool boys. I am a reformed snorer, a reformed smoker, a reformed overeater, a reformed city dweller and a reformed workaholic stress monster on the mission to share my insider tips to restore that quality sleep for you and your partner!