Daylight saving time: Coping with the clock change
- On Nov. 3, we will set our clocks back an hour for daylight saving time. This could lead to disruptions in our sleep and make us drowsy as our bodies adjust. Also, less daylight may contribute to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which may impact sleep and is characterized by depression during the darker winter months.
- To adjust to the clock change, we should set our clocks the night before daylight saving, and try to stick to our normal sleep and wake times.
- It may take up to a week or so to adjust to the clock change. People who experience persistent problems like difficulty falling asleep should consult a sleep doctor.
It’s almost time to “fall back,” or in other words, set our clocks back an hour. Daylight savings time this year is on Sunday, Nov. 3.
On the bright side, we will gain an extra hour when we change our clocks; but unfortunately, the time change can also put a kink in our sleep schedules and sometimes even contribute to other health issues.
One concern in the fall is that the daylight hours are getting shorter and some people can get seasonal affective disorder, which can affect sleep, says Michael Weinstein, M.D., medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Center at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD) is a condition where people become depressed during the darker winter months. It is more common in women than men, and symptoms may include trouble sleeping. Once SAD is diagnosed, a number of treatments are available, such as light therapy, medications and psychotherapy.
Along with SAD, an even more common reaction to changing our clocks is simply a disruption in our normal sleep schedules. People may have a hard time staying awake until bedtime, and they may wake up earlier, Weinstein notes.
With this in mind, Calvin Stafford, M.D., medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Center at Taylor Hospital, advises people to “be careful about evening drowsiness, particularly when driving.”
Adjusting to the fall clock change is generally easy, he notes, but people should be aware of how it may affect them.
Generally your body tells you how much sleep you need, says Asad Khan, M.D., medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Center at Brinton Lake. Ideally, people should wake up feeling refreshed but the reality is that most people are sleep-deprived by about a half hour to an hour, he says. If you need an alarm to wake up (rather than waking up naturally, on your own), that is a sign that you are not getting enough sleep, Khan says.
With that said, here are some basic recommendations to deal with daylight saving time and practice better sleep habits in general:
Change your clock before going to sleep on the night of daylight saving and try to stick to the same sleep and wake times as usual (this may take a little extra effort to stay up until your “normal” time for those first few nights).
Avoid napping (napping may make it harder to fall asleep at night).
ry to create a quiet, restful sleep environment.
When it comes to sleep distractions, technology can be one of the biggest culprits, notes Vatsala Ramprasad, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist and medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Pediatric Sleep program.
“The blue light on devices like cell phones and computers stimulates the brain, and makes it harder for the body to wind down,” Ramprasad says. For the best sleep, it’s best to turn off these devices at least two hours before going to bed.
For many of us, changing our habits, just like changing our clocks, can be tough to do. The bottom line, however, is that following healthy sleep habits can leave us feeling better and more productive so we can make the most of the time we are awake.
As you prepare to “fall back” on Nov. 3, keep in mind that it may take up to a week or so for your body to adjust. If you experience persistent difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings (during the sleeping hours), and/or daytime sleepiness beyond the time change hours, these may be signs of a more significant sleep disorder, and you should consult a physician, Stafford notes.
Finally, you may feel better knowing that after we change our clocks, it’s not long until the winter solstice – which is the shortest day of the year and is set to occur on Dec. 21, 2013. After that, the days will start getting longer again.
If you wish to make an appointment with a sleep professional at one of Crozer-Keystone’s sleep centers (located at Brinton Lake, Taylor Hospital, Crozer-Chester Medical Center, or Delaware County Memorial Hospital), call 1-888-SLEEP-03 (1-888-753-3703).