Updated at: 07-04-2022 - By: Jane Brody

Longer, lighter days are a benefit of Daylight Saving Time, but the “spring forward” that comes with it can have various consequences on our mental and physical well-being. Sleep deprivation affects more than four in ten Americans in a significant way, according to research. When many individuals have to adjust to losing an hour of their day in March, these figures will likely climb.

What Is Daylight Saving Time?

From March through November, clocks are turned back an hour for Daylight Saving Time (DST). The second Sunday in March is when this occurs. The non-DST period between November and March is known as Standard Time (ST). The first Sunday in November marks the beginning of a one-hour time change throughout this period. The term “spring ahead, fall back” was coined to describe this phenomenon.

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In the afternoon, we receive an extra hour of natural light thanks to Daylight Savings Time. Because individuals are more active in the end of a workday than in the morning, they can utilize less artificial light. In addition, some argue that DST can reduce the amount of energy needed to light buildings and increase the safety of roads at night.

However, it’s hard to say whether the benefits of DST outweigh the disadvantages. Some argue that the amount of energy conserved with DST is negligible due to the use of other electronics. DST is also associated with an increase in sleep deprivation, which could lead to an increase in traffic accidents, social issues, and decreased productivity.

How Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Sleep?

Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that regulate sleep and other important bodily functions, such as appetite and mood, in humans and other mammals. Light exposure has a major impact on these rhythms. Natural light-darkness cycles must be followed in order to ensure a good night’s sleep and a fresh start to the day.

During the time change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time, the mornings are darker and the evenings are brighter. As a result, you may find yourself feeling tired in the morning and alert at night. Sleep loss and “sleep debt,” which is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, can be caused by circadian misalignment.

People are especially susceptible to sleep deprivation in early March, when the clocks change from Daylight Saving Time (DST) to Standard Time. On the Monday following “Springing Forward,” the typical individual gets 40 minutes less sleep than they do on other nights of the year. When DST ends and Standard Time begins in November, researchers have shown that there are also negative effects. Mood swings, suicidal thoughts, and car accidents spike during the two bi-annual transition periods, in addition to sleep deprivation. However, researchers believe that in the long run, daylight driving reduces the number of accidents.

In November, when DST ends and Standard Time begins, major sleep disturbances are less likely to occur. In fact, having an extra hour of sleep after the end of DST tends to make people feel more awake and alert. Moderate impacts, on the other hand, may include trouble getting used to the new wake-up time.

Some research imply that the human body never fully adjusts to Daylight Savings Time (DST), despite the fact that many people adapt to time shifts. If they don’t address their circadian misalignment, it could become a long-term problem. It’s especially dangerous for people who suffer from “social jet lag,” which occurs when the responsibilities of school or job take precedence over a good night’s sleep. It has been proven that jet lag raises the incidence of obesity, depression, and heart disease in the population at-large. After a few weeks, DST’s effects begin to fade.

DST’s March start has been linked to so many unfavorable consequences and risks, some experts say it should be scrapped in favor of a year-round clock. They argue a permanent standard time is more in line with human circadian rhythms, and that this schedule would carry benefits for public health and safety. Many countries throughout the world observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) because it reduces energy use, lower expenses, and helps protect the environment. DST has also been shown to reduce crime rates because of the absence of dark hours.

DST is not observed in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Except for a few Navajo Nation territories that stretch into neighboring states, the rest of Arizona has this characteristic. Democratic and Republican lawmakers from across the country stated in March 2021 that they will introduce the Sunshine Protection Act, a bipartisan measure to make Daylight Saving Time (DST) a permanent feature across the country. In 2021, 33 states attempted or passed comparable state-level resolutions, although not all of them were successful.

Consequences of sleep loss with Daylight Savings Time

As a result of Daylight Savings Time (DST), sleep deprivation can be exacerbated by changing sleep and waking schedules. Moodiness, irritability, and exhaustion are more common side effects, as also difficulty concentrating.

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Circadian rhythms and Daylight Savings Time adjustments

A person’s internal 24-hour clock, known as the circadian rhythm, is responsible for regulating their sleep-wake cycle. There are several external and environmental elements that might influence our circadian rhythms, including light. Natural light exposure varies with the beginning and ending of Daylight Savings Time.

“Fall back” into Standard Time causes us to wake up in the dark and gain more light at night. “Circadian misalignment” occurs when the circadian rhythms don’t adapt to the natural rotation of light and darkness, and this can be caused by artificial light sources. In the mornings, we are more fatigued, but we have more energy at night since the sleep-wake cycle is delayed. Our circadian rhythms normally adjust to this new schedule after about a week, making getting out of bed in the morning much simpler.

How Do Longer Days Affect Our Mental and Physical Wellness?

DST has both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to mood and health. While Daylight Savings Time (DST) can disrupt the circadian cycle, it may also have health benefits.

Positive Effects on Mood

Serotonin is a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter that is regulated by natural light. Most people can take advantage of the longer days and increased exposure to natural light that Daylight Savings Time (DST) brings.

More people may be able to be more active if they are able to stay awake longer in the day. It’s possible that you’ll be more inclined to spend time outside or engage in physical activity, both of which improve endorphin production and, by extension, your mood.

seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is common during the winter months, when daylight hours are reduced (SAD). SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a form of depression that is frequently brought on by a lack of exposure to sunlight. SAD patients may suffer from poor emotions and exhaustion in addition to cognitive impairment. SAD symptoms may be lessened by DST’s increased exposure to daylight.

To summarize, having more natural light in your home can help you feel better, have more energy, and have a more positive outlook on life.

Negatives Effects on Mood

Sleep deprivation or deficiency is associated with increased feelings of stress, anger, sadness and mental exhaustion. DST and ST adjustments can mess with your circadian cycle, which can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Depression, anxiety, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can all result from this. DST/ST will be difficult for those who already have sleep or emotional issues. Insomnia and other forms of sleep deprivation are exacerbated by mental stress and anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.

Daylight Saving Time: 4 Tips to Help Your Body Adjust – Cleveland Clinic

Daylight Saving Time Sleep Tips

Time change preparations can be made in advance by taking the necessary procedures, including:

  • Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Sleep hygiene refers to practices that can influence sleep for better or worse. Before going to bed, avoid drinking alcohol to help you adjust to the new time zone. Alcohol can make you feel drowsy at first, but it also disrupts your sleep and lowers your quality of sleep. The quality of your night’s sleep can be significantly impacted if you eat a large meal or snack right before bed.
  • In order to improve your sleep, it is important to follow a healthy sleep hygiene routine. Avoiding alcoholic beverages before going to bed will help you adjust to the new time zone more easily. Even though drinking can make you feel drowsy at first, it can also interrupt your sleep and create poor sleep quality. The quality of your night’s sleep can be significantly impacted if you eat a large meal or snack right before bed.
  • Gradually Alter Your Bedtime: Two to three days before the transition between Standard Time and DST in early March, sleep experts recommend waking up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual. You should also set your alarm for 15 to 20 minutes earlier the Saturday before the time change. Adjusting your wake-up time can help the body make a smoother transition when the time change occurs.
  • Sleep specialists advocate adjusting your bedtime by 15-20 minutes two to three days before the switch from Standard Time to DST in early March. Finally, 15 to 20 minutes before to the time change, put your alarm clock back. To help the body adjust to the new time zone, you might vary your wake-up time.
  • To help those who are suffering from sleep deprivation due to DST, brief naps during the workday may help. A 20-minute snooze is the maximum recommended duration to avoid grogginess in the morning. After a time change, consider taking a sleep on Sunday afternoon instead of changing your wake-up time.
  • Beware of Caffeine within six hours of going to bed. Studies show that caffeine might interfere with your sleep cycle. Caffeine taken in the early morning or late afternoon should have less of an impact on your sleep than high doses of caffeine.

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