March 10, 2019, is the start of daylight saving time. Daylight saving time normally signals the incoming spring season and extra sunshine in the evenings for those late walks, but some people, like parents with young children, are dreading the hour of sleep we are all going to lose on Sunday — and the effects can be noticeable.
We are living in a time when numerous studies are showing that one-third of Americans are sleep deprived and weekend sleep can’t quite make up for our reduced sleep time during the work week! Basically, if you’re already somewhat sleep-deprived, giving up just 1 hour of shut-eye can negatively impact how you feel and function during the day; it’s as if you are experiencing a mild case of jet lag.
“This is due to your body’s internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm, being thrown off,” said Dennis Hwang, MD, at Kaiser Permanente Southern California Sleep Center in San Bernardino, California. “During daylight saving time, the internal sleep clock becomes misaligned. This complex timekeeper is controlled by areas of the brain that respond to light and can suppress the release of melatonin and affect your ability to sleep.”
While this shift is unlikely to cause serious health consequences, a disruption in your circadian rhythm does not only affect your ability to sleep but can also affect the function of many of your body’s systems. In addition to sleepiness, it can cause:
- Problems with concentration and mental functioning
- Neurologic symptoms
- Stomach and intestinal symptoms
- Elevations in blood pressure and heart rate (and can possibly even lead to irregular heartbeats)
Dr. Hwang offers tips to prepare for daylight saving time and to reset your internal clock:
- A couple days before daylight saving time, start going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier than your normal bedtime (or at least go to bed earlier on the night of the time change).
- Sleep an extra half hour on the morning of daylight saving time.
- A dose of 0.25 to 1 mg of melatonin about 2 hours before bedtime can sometimes help you fall asleep.
- Reduce your caffeine intake (and consume none after lunchtime).
- Avoid alcohol and exercising before bedtime.
- Put your phone (and tablets/computers) away at least an hour before bedtime!
- When using your electronic device in the night, wearing blue-light blocking glasses or turning on the blue light filter on your phone or tablet can be good for your sleep.
- Spend some time with your family and enjoy a relaxing evening at home.
To learn more about sleep, visit a Kaiser Permanente sleep center or visit www.kp.org.