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How time changes impact your sleep

By The Health News Team | November 7, 2022
Man asleep in bed

The end of daylight saving time on Nov. 6 required setting our clocks to “fall back” one hour. This means many people are going to have to get used to going to work in the daylight and coming home in the dark.

The idea behind moving to daylight saving time — when we set our clocks to “spring forward” one hour — each spring is to take better advantage of the sunlight in the evening. The move back to standard time in the fall gives us more sunlight in the morning.

However, as you try to adjust to the time change, you may be wondering whether moving the clock back an hour can have negative effects on your sleep. We asked Dr. Gary Levinson, a board-certified internal medicine and sleep medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group your top questions about returning to standard time.

  1. Can the end of daylight saving time interrupt my sleep pattern?
    One hour of time change should have a minimal effect on people, in general. You may feel more fatigued in the late afternoon. Teens may do better with waking up in the morning, as the time change mirrors their natural circadian rhythm, or sleep pattern. But the opposite could be felt by older adults who might not do as well, as their rhythms are usually regulated to getting up and going to bed early.

  2. What steps should I take to mitigate the effects?
    Maximize your exposure to light during the day and minimize artificial light at night, especially from TV, computer or smartphone screens in bed. Try not to succumb to the temptation to take a nap. It’s OK to nap on occasion, particularly on the weekends when fatigue may strike from a busy week or following excessive exercise. However, napping on a regular basis can actually worsen nighttime sleep.

  3. Can I take advantage of the extra hour of sleep?
    Yes, the extra hour may help anyone who is a bit sleep deprived. Sleep is like a bank account. When you lack adequate sleep at night you develop a sleep debt. Using that hour can help ensure you pay back your debt with a full eight hours of sleep.

  4. Should I go to bed at the same time, an hour earlier, or an hour later after daylight saving time ends?
    Initially, you may feel like going to bed earlier because your body clock is preprogrammed an hour ahead. Try to push through and stay up until your normal bedtime, otherwise you could wake up an hour earlier than usual. The general rule is that it will take one day for every hour change to adjust, so you should expect to be acclimated after a day or two.

Improve your sleep year-round
If you find you’re having trouble sleeping, whether during standard time or daylight saving time, Dr. Levinson recommends maintaining a routine that allows for adequate total sleep time every night. “You want to train your brain to have a schedule,” he says. “Set an alarm to get up in the morning and try to go to sleep at a similar time every night.”

To achieve quality sleep, you should also:

  • Exercise every day. Aerobic activities, such as cycling, running and swimming, can help you achieve more deep sleep, but try to avoid exercising during the few hours before going to bed.

  • Clear your mind before bedtime. Make a to-do list early in the evening, so you won’t stay awake in bed worrying about the next day.

  • Create a healthy sleep environment. Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable, turn down the lights, avoid distracting sounds and keep the room at a comfortable temperature.

  • Relax. Before bed, take a warm bath, read or do another relaxing activity to help you wind down.

  • Avoid using electronic devices right before bed. Unless you have the intensity down and blue light filters on, any other relaxing activity — yoga, deep breathing, listening to music — is preferable.

If these steps don’t help, and you find yourself having trouble falling or staying asleep, or you are feeling extra drowsy during the day, Dr. Levinson encourages you to talk with your doctor. There are many treatments available for sleep disorders.

Learn more about sleep; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News.

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