How Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Health & 7 Tips for Adjusting

March 17, 2023

Sophie Bebeau

Have you been wandering sluggishly through the past week, yawning in meetings, wishing you could get a little shut-eyet eye? You’re not alone. Most of us head into March craving more sunlight after a long winter of dark evenings and cloudy skies, but we also pay a hefty price for it when Daylight Saving Time finally comes around. Losing that hour of sleep can have long-lasting effects on our minds and bodies and can disrupt the daily routines of everyone people of all ages, and even our pets!

So why did we start Daylight Saving Time in the first place?

What is Daylight Saving Time?

Daylight Saving Time, or DST, begins every year on the second Sunday in March when we collectively turn the clocks forward one hour. This time change runs for about seven months, to the first Sunday of November when we move the clocks back again by one hour.

The first instance of Daylight Saving Time in the United States began in 1918 but only lasted seven months and was then repealed. President Franklin Roosevelt reintroduced DST to the U.S. in 1942 as a national defense effort to conserve energy. During this time, DST was known as “War Time,” and the time shift lasted until 1945.

The United States toyed with Daylight Saving Time a couple more times in the sixties and seventies, but it didn’t stick until 1987, then beginning the first weekend in April and running through the last weekend in October. In 2007 we shifted again, beginning DST on the second Sunday in March and ending it on the first Sunday in November.

Only two states don’t follow DST (Hawaii and most of Arizona), and with all that back and forth, can we really blame them?

The health side effects of Daylight Saving Time

According to sleep scientists, “springing ahead” one hour is asking a lot of our brains and bodies, putting us at higher risk of myriad short-term health problems, including sleep disorders like insomnia, depression, slowed metabolism, headaches, and injuries (including a 6% spike in fatal car accidents during the week proceeding the shift to DST).

And while the short-term side effects of switching to DST usually subside after a few weeks, researchers have also found that the disruption in circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock) can exacerbate existing and underlying issues that lead to a spike in heart attack and stroke risk, as well as digestive and immune-related diseases.

So how can you combat these negative side effects and “spring forward” with some pep in your step?

Seven tips for adjusting to Daylight Saving Time

1. Keep a sleep routine

Practicing good sleep hygiene is a good habit all year, but it’s especially helpful when adjusting to Daylight Saving Time. Try to keep to a regular sleep routine with a typical time or window of time that’s dedicated to getting ready for bed and falling asleep. Don’t engage in sleep-disrupting activities in the hours before bedtime. These include activities like drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages, snacking, looking at your phone or other electronic devices, and doing strenuous workouts.

2. Don’t over-caffeinate

You might be tempted to hit the coffee pot a few extra times while your body adjusts to DST, but studies show that consuming 400 milligrams or more of caffeine even six hours before bedtime can disrupt sleep. If you’re a one- or two-cup-a-day coffee drinker, steer clear of the extra cups even if you feel that late-afternoon slump.

3. Soak up the morning sun

It might feel like an extra challenge to greet the day while you’re adjusting to Daylight Saving Time, but research shows that getting outside into the sun in the morning can jumpstart your day and help to more seamlessly reset your circadian rhythm.

4. Avoid blue light before bedtime

We all know having our faces stuck to our devices all day isn’t great for our health, but putting aside the phone or tablet before bedtime is especially important. A growing body of research on how digital technology usage affects sleep has shown that staring at the blue and white light from our devices actually stops our brain from releasing melatonin, the natural hormone that tells our body that it’s time to sleep. Do your brain and body a favor and switch to “Do Not Disturb” for at least two hours before you go to bed, and if you simply must scroll before you hit the hay, switch your device to night shift mode to help filter out disruptive blue light.

5. Don’t nap

We know…it would feel soooo good to just lay down for a minute and catch some zzz’s. But taking a nap, even a short one, in the middle of the day will further throw off your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime.

6. Exercise in the morning

Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise helps you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality. Just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each day increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get, which is the deep sleep your body needs to feel the most rejuvenated. Exercising in the morning can help you get ahead of the DST blues by signaling to your body that it’s time to get up and move. It also raises your core body temperature, which has the same effect as a warm shower, signaling to your body that it’s time to be awake. (P.S. Western opens bright and early at 5:00 am Monday through Friday and at 7:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays.)

7. Do whole body cryotherapy

Whole body cryotherapy increases the production of norepinephrine in your body, a hormone that helps activate REM sleep and balance your circadian rhythm. Doing a whole body cryotherapy treatment also causes your body to release endorphins which will give you a boost of energy, followed later by a state of calm, both of which will help you adjust to Daylight Saving Time and fall asleep easier. One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine exposed twenty-seven basketball players to -202°F in a whole body cryotherapy chamber every day for a week. The results showed not only improvements in their mood but their sleep as well, with sleep quality improving by 15%.

Need some help adjusting?

It’s never too late to start establishing healthy habits. At Western, we can help you get into a healthy routine with free daily group fitness classes, customized personal training, wellness and recovery services like whole body cryotherapy, and nutrition coaching!

Visit our wellness & recovery page to check out all our wellness resources and schedule your appointment today! (Don’t forget - members get FREE HyperIce services each month!)


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