“It’s here again?”
“It’s going to get dark so early…”
“I cannot tell you how much this messes up my schedule.”
“Why are we still doing this?”
If the switch to or from Daylight Saving Time makes you feel out sync, you’re not alone.
“Virtually every cell in our body operates in a clock-like fashion, with certain organs and physiological processes being performed or halted at various times in a typical 24-hour day,” explains Rebecca Robbins, PhD, sleep researcher and Oura advisor. “These systems cannot change course on the flip of a coin, which is what happens when we change the clocks on our walls.”
The good news is that you can some steps and prepare to stay rested and ready, whether you’re moving the clocks forward or back.
First, let’s look at the challenges this seemingly small change can bring. For most, the adjustment takes place abruptly. On Saturday, there’s daylight between these hours and on Sunday this has shifted one hour forward or back.
Plus, even though we “fall back” in the November time change (in the U.S.), it doesn’t mean this time change is an easy-breezy adjustment. In fact, recent research shows there is an uptick in car collisions with deer, as well as an increase in heart attacks, the week after Daylight Saving Time ends, compared to other weeks. “This demonstrates the profound impact of changing our schedules even one hour on our individual and collective public health,” Robbins notes.
And when the time “springs ahead” in March, we lose an hour of sleep, which can result in a range of negative consequences, from car accidents to heart attacks.
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.
Don’t know your type? Leveraging and following your data from the Oura Ring can help you move to your body’s rhythm, and discover what routines work best for your health and wellness.
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! And it all starts with trying new routines and following your Oura Ring data.
How to Adjust to Daylight Saving Time Changes
Here are several ways you can adjust to Daylight Saving Time Changes. And remember, you can see the effects of these with your Oura Ring.
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. Some ideas from Dr. Robbins: “If you love to run, try to do it outside next week. If you have a commute, try to walk to an extra stop on the subway, or take your lunch or coffee break outside. Exposure to natural light in your environment at the new clock time will help your internal clock adjust to the new pattern of light and darkness in our environment.”
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 or Oura Ring moment.
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.
READ MORE: How Long Should You Nap?
- 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
- 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/