Daylight Savings Time
Love it or hate it, it always visits twice a year. That’s right, it’s almost Daylight Savings Time. As a kid, I remember loving when we would get an extra hour in the fall – that meant an extra hour to sleep, an extra hour to watch tv, and an extra hour to hangout with my friends. And I can also remember hating when we lost an hour in the Spring. I was never tired for bed. I would argue with my parents to let me stay up later. But what I didn’t realize (because I was only 10) was that it’s super important for our bodies to follow the Daytime Savings Time cycle.
Moving the clocks back just one hour can affect our mood, our sleep patterns, our response rates (responding to a stop sign; responding to a question), the way we eat (and what we eat), and our heart.
According to a CBS News article from last year, “On average, Americans lost 40 minutes of sleep when we set the clocks ahead in the spring. Such sleep disturbances can lead to mood disruptions and increased irritability.”
Aside from being a little groggy at work, Daylight Savings Time can also affect our response time, making us take just a little bit longer to concentrate. The article continues, “Sleep deprivation can affect motor skills and research shows that it may lead to more workplace injuries, particularly around daylight saving time transitions. A 2009 study examined data on over 500,000 mining injuries from 1983 to 2006 and found a 5.7 percent increase on the Monday following the time change. What’s more, the injuries were more severe, leading to a 68 percent increase in the number of days of work missed.” So if you think about it, it’s not just a work-related risk, but anything that we do that requires concentration can be affected: driving a car, taking care of a child.
Although there is no hard evidence that sleep deprivation is directly linked to strokes or heart attacks, there has been enough research to lead doctors to believe that there is a relation. ‘”The circadian rhythm influences numerous bodily functions including metabolic, physiologic, and behavioral changes,” Dr. Teshamae Monteith, an assistant professor of clinical neurology and director of the headache program at the University of Miami, told CBS News. “Although confirmatory studies are needed, I believe this study supports the link between circadian rhythms and vascular events.”‘
Finally, changes in our sleep patterns can affect our eating habits. ‘”Sleep deficiency increases the release of the hormone ghrelin, which makes us hungry, and decreases the release of the hormone leptin, which makes us feel satisfied when we eat,” Czeisler [Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital] explained.”‘
So what can we do about it? I think it’s important to really understand how lack of sleep affects you personally. You may be reading this saying, “I’m never irritable after a bad night of sleep.” Some reactions may not apply to you, so it would be important to know which ones do apply so that you know how to plan ahead.
One thing that may be helpful in the time change transition would be to start transitioning a few days before Daylight Savings Time. Start to wake up just a little earlier and go to bed just a little earlier so there is less of a “shock” to your body when the time is actually changed. It may also be helpful to gravitate toward daylight while it’s out. Our bodies, as I mentioned, react to where we are. Similarly, our bodies react to the sun and the darkness. We start to create a sleep cycle in response to the sun begin out versus the nighttime when the sun leaves. Exposing ourselves to sunlight first thing in the morning might help our bodies to wake up faster. Finally, I would recommend avoiding anything that will make you SUPER awake as of late afternoon and into the evening. Two things that come to mind are caffeine and electronics. I’m not saying you should avoid using electronics as of the afternoon, but you may want to limit your time on your electronics by the evening (maybe an hour before bed). Electronics such as laptops, cell phones and iPads are bright and have alot of things going on at once — pop-ups, sounds, moving graphics — and it can get our brain reacting in the same way: energized. I’m an afternoon coffee drinker, as well, but I’m always sure to have my second cup before 1pm, because anything after that keeps me wired into the evening, ultimately making it more difficult to fall asleep.
Think about some things now that will help make the transition smoother. It may sound silly or unneccessary, but your body and mind will thank you.