"Sleepless Nights Ahead: The Impact of Daylight Saving Time on Your Sleep"
The yearly practice of setting clocks forward one hour, known as Daylight Saving Time (DST), occurs between March and November. The purpose behind DST is to save natural light since longer daylight hours are experienced during the spring, summer, and early fall compared to the darker days of late fall and winter. The non-DST period is referred to as Standard Time, which lasts from November to March.
Most of the United States observes DST officially since 1966, with the exception of Hawaii, certain areas of Arizona, and U.S. territories such as American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The DST period starts on the second Sunday of March at 2 a.m. when clocks are set one hour forward, resulting in one less hour of sleep. The time changes back by an hour on the first Sunday of November at 2 a.m., hence the term “Spring Forward, Fall Backward.”
While adjusting the time by an hour may not seem like a significant change, sleep experts have noted adverse health effects that occur during the transition between Standard Time and DST, particularly in March. This includes an increase in heart problems, mood disorders, and motor vehicle collisions. DST can also cause sleep problems if circadian rhythms are not aligned with natural cycles of light and darkness. Symptoms of insomnia may also be experienced due to the spring time changes.
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that regulate sleep and are also observed in other mammals, including humans. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) sets standards and promotes excellence in sleep medicine health care, education, and research. Sources for more information on DST and circadian rhythms can be found on the AASM website.
The rhythms of our body, including sleep-wake cycles, appetite, and mood, are greatly influenced by exposure to light. To maintain healthy and high-quality sleep, these rhythms must synchronize with natural light-darkness cycles. A disruption in this synchronization can lead to sleep loss, circadian misalignment, and sleep debt, which refers to the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
The transition from DST to Standard Time can delay the sleep-wake cycle, making people feel tired in the morning and alert in the evening. This misalignment can cause sleep loss, mood disturbance, and an increased risk of traffic accidents and suicide during both transitions. However, experts suggest that accidents are reduced in the long run as more people drive home from work in daylight.
When DST ends and Standard Time begins, people often feel more refreshed due to gaining an extra hour of sleep. Nonetheless, it can still cause moderate effects, such as difficulty adjusting to a new wake-up time.
Some studies suggest that the body never fully acclimates to DST, leading to chronic or permanent circadian misalignment, especially for those who experience social jet lag due to demands at work or school taking precedence over sleep. Social jet lag has been linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, and cardiovascular disease. The effects of DST subside gradually after a few weeks, but some argue for abandoning DST altogether in favor of a year-round standard time to benefit public health and safety. However, supporters of DST argue that it decreases energy consumption, reduces costs, and protects the environment, and that more than 70 countries around the world observe it.
Decrease in Crime Rates due to Insufficient Dark Hours, without Daylight Saving Time
The MIT Press is renowned for publishing books and journals at the crossroads of science, technology, and art. Their publications are recognized for their intellectual audacity, academic values, and distinct design. The absence of daylight saving time (DST) in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as most parts of Arizona except for select areas of Navajo Nation that extend into neighboring states, leads to a reduction in crime rates. Several states, including Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Oregon, aim to implement the Sunshine Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that supports the permanent nationwide enactment of DST. In 2021, 33 states have attempted or implemented similar measures at the state level, although not all have been successful.
Prior to switching times, prepare yourself for the transition with these precautions:
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Sleep hygiene comprises habits that influence sleep quality. Prior to the time change, avoid consuming alcohol before sleeping, as it not only causes drowsiness but also disrupts sleep and decreases sleep quality. Eating heavy dinners and snacks before bedtime also negatively affects sleep quality.
Establish a Consistent Sleep Routine: Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, including weekends, is a healthy sleep habit that can also ease the transition to and from DST. Make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep before and after switching.
Gradually Alter Your Bedtime: Sleep experts suggest waking up 15-20 minutes earlier than your usual time two to three days before the switch from Standard Time to DST. On the Saturday before the switch, set your alarm clock back an additional 15-20 minutes. Adjusting your wake-up time gradually can help your body transition smoothly.
Spend Time Outdoors: Since natural light plays a critical role in our circadian rhythms, exposure to sunlight can alleviate daytime fatigue that typically accompanies time changes. Spending time outside during the day also suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for inducing sleepiness in the evening.
Moderate Nap is Key: For individuals struggling with sleep loss due to DST, adopting short naps during the day could provide some relief. However, it's essential to restrict these naps to 20 minutes or less to avoid feeling drowsy upon waking up. Rather than tinkering with your wake-up time immediately following a time change, consider taking a nap during the afternoon instead.
Limit Caffeine Consumption: Scientific studies reveal that caffeine consumed within six hours before sleeping can hamper your sleep cycle. To avoid any impact on your sleep, consume a moderate amount of caffeine in the morning or early afternoon.
Access Biomedical & Genomic Information: The National Center for Biotechnology Information aims to provide access to biomedical and genomic information, advancing science and healthcare.
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1. Rishi MA, et al. Daylight saving time: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement. J Clin Sleep Med. 2020;16(10):1781–1784.
2. Bryner, J. (2020, March 5). Daylight saving time 2020: When we change our clocks and why. Live Science.
3. American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). (2014, March 3). Saving daylight, losing sleep: Insomnia Awareness Day is March 10.
4. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2014). The International Classification of Sleep Disorders – Third Edition (ICSD-3).
5. Barnes, C. M., & Wagner, D. T. (2009). Changing to daylight saving time cuts into sleep and increases workplace injuries. The Journal of applied psychology, 94(5), 1305–1317.
Check out these sources for information related to daylight saving time:
- - Learn about how daylight saving time affects sleep timings, mood, and efficiency in the study by Monk and Aplin (1980) published in Ergonomics.
- - Discover how ambient light influences criminal activity under the cover of darkness in the article by Doleac and Sanders (2015) from the MIT Press Journals.
- - Keep up to date with state legislation regarding daylight saving time by visiting the National Conference of State Legislatures website.
- - Get tips to help your body adjust to the time change from The Old Farmer's Almanac article by Boeckmann (2020).
- - Stay informed about the potential health impacts of daylight saving time with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's (2016) press release.
- Explore the effects of caffeine on sleep timing in the study by Drake et al. (2013) from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
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