Adapt When the Clock Springs Forward

You may only worry about losing an hour of sleep when the clocks spring forward this Sunday, but the time change can also pose risks for your health.

Research shows that the risk of stroke, heart attack and car crashes all increase in the days following the switch to daylight saving time.

How Time Changes and Light Affect Sleep Patterns

Time changes affect your body's natural circadian rhythm, which helps your brain signal that it's time to go to sleep and controls other organ systems. 

“Our light cues will not be there when we wake up,” said Dr. Suhaib Haq, a sleep medicine specialist at University Health. “Our brains will still think it's night, so we're going to wake up tired. We are going to wake up sleepy, even if we have had an extra hour of sleep the night before.”  

Exposure to light is the biggest regulator of your circadian rhythm. With daylight savings time, it’s still dark in the morning and stays light later into the night. This confuses our bodies, and we need time to adjust.

A recent study of seasonal effects on sleep disruption in the U.S. found that sleep duration decreased with increasing daylight length, and shortest sleep times and earliest wake times occurred during spring.

How to Prepare for the Time Change

You can reduce the impact of the springtime change by planning a few days in advance. Haq says there are things we can do to minimize its impact. About a week before the time shift:

  • Begin going to bed 15 minutes earlier every few nights, and gradually get up earlier, too.
  • Adjust mealtimes and other routines in the same way. 
  • Go outdoors and soak up a little morning sunlight in the week after the time change. That will help reset your body clock. 

Sleep Medicine at University Health

If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, a sleep study might help. The sleep specialists at University Health can diagnose and treat a wide range of sleep disorders in adults and children.

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