“It’s here again?”

“I cannot tell you how much this messes up my schedule.”

“Why are we still doing this?”

“That extra hour of daylight is great, but the first week is miserable.”

“I hope I don’t oversleep the first Monday.”

If these questions sound familiar, you’re certainly not alone. You may be one of the millions feeling out of step during Daylight Saving Time—especially if you haven’t yet taken the steps to mitigate its effects on your mind and body. 

So what steps can you take to remain rested and ready?

First, let’s look at the challenges this seemingly small change can bring. For most, the adjustment takes place abruptly. Saturday there’s daylight between these hours and on Sunday this has shifted one hour forward. 

“Ah-Ha! But it’s on the weekend, so I can sleep in to make up the time.” 

Well, that’s true, but come Monday morning your body still needs to adjust. This change can lead to a decrease in both sleep quality and total sleep time, which can affect your daytime energy and cognitive focus. If you’re already sleep-deprived the effects are exacerbated. One study found that the average person receives 40 minutes less sleep1 on the first Monday of Daylight Saving.

Even worse, studies have found an association between the overnight time change and short-term risk of heart attacks, stroke, traffic accidents, emergency room visits, and serious mood disturbances. 

But it’s only an hour, so why is this the case?  Let’s take a step back and find out why this can be the case and what you can do to mitigate the negative effects. 

Your Circadian Rhythm

Your body moves through its day with a specific, choreographed routine — your circadian rhythm. Circadian refers to your body’s innate 24-hour cycle based on the pattern of the sun.

Most mammals — and yes, that includes us, humans — are awake during the day and asleep at night. Your circadian rhythm is genetically hardwired and influences your energy levels, hunger, and alertness. You may not realize it, but your best days often come when your lifestyle aligns with your body’s natural rhythm.

Like you, your internal clocks are unique. Your body has a specific preference, or “chronotype,” for how your circadian rhythm aligns with the sun’s daily pattern. If your body is naturally more active in the morning, your chronotype is an “early bird.” If your body is more alert in the evenings, you’re a “night owl.” Your type determines when your body executes certain routines.

Your Sleep Drive

Your second system, your sleep drive, reminds your body to get some sleep. The moment you wake up, the “drive” increases and builds throughout the day. The greater your sleep drive, the more your body signals that it’s time to sleep. Ever felt your head start to bob during a boring meeting? That’s your body’s “Time to sleep!” signal.

Adenosine is a brain molecule (neurotransmitter) that helps register elapsed time. Think of it as a dialogue. When someone says something to you once, the easier it is to ignore them, but when you’re sitting consciously beside this persistent person for hours, the pressure to address their request increases. The relationship between adenosine and your body is similar. The longer you sit awake, the more adenosine accumulates, pressuring you to throw in the towel and call it a night. Sleep wipes the slate, resetting your adenosine levels.

An abrupt change to your daylight exposure, i.e. Daylight Saving, can throw off your circadian rhythm and natural metabolic processes.

So, what can you do to adjust? Well, a lot!

How to Adjust to Daylight Saving

Get plenty of natural light exposure.

As mentioned earlier, the initial negative effects of Daylight Saving Time have to do with your body’s innate 24-hour cycle based on the sun’s pattern. By getting more natural light early and often (be sure to protect your skin), you assist your circadian rhythm.

Adjust your sleep schedule.

In the week prior to the start of Daylight Saving, use small changes in your sleep schedule to mitigate the hour change. Sleeping 10-15 minutes earlier each night, Monday through Saturday, will not only help you “gain” back your hour but can potentially provide you with a small sleep bank. In the case you do not, or can not, use this technique throughout the first week of Daylight Saving.

Establish a sleep-promoting evening routine.

Throughout your evening there are a number of steps you can take to promote restful sleep. These can include: Ceasing alcohol intake 3-4 hours before bed cutting caffeine 6 hours before bed, avoiding heavy meals inside 4 hours before bed, slowly reducing exposure to all forms of light as the evening progresses, eliminating exposure to all forms of blue light in the last 60 minutes (electronic screens, LED bulbs) of your day, clearing your mind with a relaxing activity such as an Oura sleep story.

Focus on your sleep quality.

Getting quality sleep takes a series of sleep-promoting behaviors. Your daily behaviors can help or hurt your sleep quality. Regular physical activity, a healthy nutritional balance, optimal meal timing, evening blue light exposure, and a sleep-promoting bedroom environment are just a few of the things you can modify to promote more restful sleep.

Utilize power naps.

Using short naps, up to 25 minutes, can help relieve daytime sleepiness in the period after the time change. The best time for a nap is early in the afternoon, a time when your body naturally has a decrease in energy. This timing also prevents a negative effect on your sleep that night.

Remember to change your clocks and alarms.

Don’t wait until the Sunday morning of Daylight Saving Time to move your clocks one hour forward. Only some of your phones and computers do it automatically.

 

The potential effects of Daylight Saving Time should not be dismissed. However, if you go in prepared, you can minimize the negative effects and continue to sleep soundly.  


Resources

  1. Barnes, C. M., & Wagner, D. T. (2009). Changing to daylight saving time cuts into sleep and increases workplace injuries. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(5), 1305–1317. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015320
  2. Zhang, H., Dahlen, T., Khan, A., Edgren, G., & Rzhetsky, A. (2020). Measurable health effects associated with the daylight saving time shift. PLoS Computational Biology, 16(6), e1007927. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32511231/