Daylight savings time (DST) was designed to better align daylight hours with our normal daily activities, allowing us to spend more of our time awake in the sun. Although the idea dates back to as far as Benjamin Franklin, it gained popularity during the First World War as a measure to prevent excess energy consumption. However, evidence has suggested that not only does the time change fail to affect energy consumption significantly, poor adjustment to DST can pose a threat to productivity, test scores, and even our lives! As we prepare to Spring Forward next Sunday, the folks at Evan’s Chiropractic and Pain Laser Clinic want to share some information regarding the upcoming time change, including advice to help you better adjust to a change in your sleep schedule.
Potential problems from DST
Although a lot of us grumble about the time change, few people think of it as a significant threat to our normal lives. After all, how much difference can one hour of sleep make, right? However, research on the subject indicates that the hour of lost sleep can cause a lot of problems! Below are just a few examples of the way we’re affected by the time change.
- DST effects our biological timing system, or circadian rhythm. We have a complex set of physiological reactions that regulate our sleep/wake cycle which change when sleep patterns are disrupted. That’s part of why it can be difficult to fall and stay asleep after the time change. Differences in sleep patterns can last up to 8 weeks after spring DST!
- Some studies show an increase in fatal car accidents the Monday after spring daylight savings, presumably from sleepy drivers. Although the number of accidents was not dramatically higher, it’s important to realize that even a small decrease in amount of sleep can affect motor skills and especially our ability to focus. This is further supported by studies that showed:
- Decreased SAT scores in Indiana counties that participate in DST compared to those that remained in standard time (ST) year round
- Increased cyber loafing (such as looking at Netflix or social media) at work the Monday after DST in spring
- Changes in stock market behavior
- Research done at emergency rooms at hospitals in Michigan showed a 5-10% increase in acute myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) following the week of DST. This is thought to be linked to increased sympathetic nervous activity due to mild sleep deprivation.
So what should you do?
While this list might seem a bit scary, we can assume that most people aren’t preparing wisely for the time change. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so we’d like to share some pointers to help you stay healthy, safe, and productive following next Sunday’s time change!
- Try setting an earlier bedtime in the days leading up to the time change. For example, if your normal bedtime is 10:00pm, on Wednesday night go to bed at 9:45, at Thursday night 9:30, and so on. Try getting up slightly earlier each day as well. These changes can prevent the discomfort that abruptly changing your sleep wake cycle by an hour can cause.
- Avoid lights earlier in the evening to help you sleep. Light inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleepiness. Especially avoid devices with back-lit screens like phones, TVs, or computers. Opt for less visually stimulating entertainment such as reading before hitting the hay.
- Maintain your sleep routine. Evidence suggests that a “bedtime ritual” tells your body that it’s time to relax and prepare for rest, which can promote a more regular sleep cycle.
- If you’re concerned that you’ll have trouble falling asleep early, try exercise! Research shows that physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep overall. Try to exercise at least several hours before bedtime!
In addition to these measures, Dr. Evans can provide supplements that will help you get more restful sleep on a regular basis. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below or stop in the clinic today!