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How Daylight Saving Time Can Impact Your Health


March 2023


Cody Miller

Whether you are a fan or not of changing your clocks twice a year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is quickly approaching. This means that on March 12, we'll be springing our clocks an hour ahead, effectively losing an hour of our day.

While one hour of change may seem minuscule and uneventful to many of us, a recent study has shown that measurable health impacts may be associated with the shift to daylight saving time.

However, despite these impacts, there are ways you and your loved ones can prepare before changing the clocks.

Possible Health Impacts of Daylight Saving

Moving our clocks an hour back in the fall and an hour ahead in the spring has some benefits—it helps with energy conservation with more hours of daylight and it helps us enjoy more of warmer weather with a later sunset.

Meanwhile, many of us have noticed that springing ahead and even falling back an hour can make us feel groggy and out of sync for a few weeks after the time change.

According to experts, springing ahead is particularly harmful because it generally leads to less sleep, and missing sleep could negatively affect your health and well-being. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute explains that you might feel frustrated, cranky or generally unwell if you miss out on your sleep.

Sleep deficiency is especially hard on children, who may misbehave or be overly active when they lack sleep. Springing ahead can also be difficult for children during puberty because during this developmental phase, the brain releases melatonin later at night, which means there is a delay in the body's natural signal telling you to go to sleep.

Ways to Overcome DST Impacts

Lacking sleep, whether caused by DST or not, can be a major disruption in your daily life. Although disruptions to your sleep are rarely planned, you can prepare for changes related to DST ahead of time.

The Sleep Foundation provides a few easy tips to ease you into the time change:

Make gradual adjustments to your schedule. In the days leading up to springing forward, you can try slowly adjusting your schedule by going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each night.
Get relaxed for some extra shuteye. Try some relaxation techniques to help you get to sleep amid the time change. These can range from deep breathing to meditation.
Practice sleep-minded eating habits. Avoid any unnecessary food-related sleep disruptions by keeping your diet balanced and eating dinner at least a few hours before heading to bed. Also, limit spicy and heavy foods in the nighttime as well as any caffeinated beverages.
Take a nap if you need it. If you are struggling to stay awake during your day following the change to DST, a short nap may be just what you need. Be sure to keep it in the early afternoon and try to take 30 minutes at most. This will help your alertness without making you feel groggy.
While the time change doesn't take effect until 2 a.m. on Sunday, don't forget to set your home clocks forward before going to bed Saturday night. This can help you avoid confusion and save you any headaches after the fact.

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