Dreaded Daylight Savings: Here’s How to Adjust

November 4, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Adrian Pristas, M.D.

By Katie Lynch

Whether we are springing forward or falling back, daylight savings time can leave us confused and exhausted. First developed to help conserve energy and make better use of sunlight, the daylight savings tradition continues November 4 at 2 a.m., when the clocks will once again be turned back one hour.

To help prepare our bodies for this semiannual change, Adrian Pristas, M.D., medical director of sleep medicine at Bayshore Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center, shared a list of tips and best practices to make for an easier adjustment.

  1. Wake up at the same time you usually do.

“The key tactic to remember when going through a short time change is to maintain your schedule,” notes Dr. Pristas. “If you wake up at 5 a.m. every day, make sure you wake up at 5 a.m., even if that means losing or gaining an hour of sleep. And although it may be difficult, maintain this schedule even on the weekends, it’ll make Monday a lot easier. Establishing a consistent routine is critical. ”

“It doesn’t matter if the clocks are going forwards or backwards, if you maintain a consistent sleep schedule, that one hour should not cause too much of a disturbance. However, those that have trouble getting up at the same time every day are the ones who are going to have the most trouble,” adds Dr. Pristas.

  1. Have an established sleep routine.

“Every night there should be some sort of nighttime ritual that helps your body understand that it’s time for sleep,” says Dr. Pristas. “The temperature in your room should be cooling off; your bed, mattress and pillow should all be comfortable to you. Turn off your electronics at least half an hour before bedtime, even earlier would be better.”

“Electronic lights can be disruptive – the small light on your TV, light from your phone and even your clock, turn them away from you or don’t bring them into the bedroom,” he adds.

  1. Incorporate healthy living habits.

“Healthy sleep is not just about what happens overnight, it’s also about what happens during the day,” says Dr. Pristas. “Exercise always helps, particularly if you can exercise in the morning, that’s even better.”

“You may not think it, but good nutrition is also an important factor of healthy sleep. You don’t want to go to bed full or hungry, so the timing of your meal is essential as well.”

  1. Avoid napping.

“In general, naps are not a good idea. Understandably, for anyone who works nightshifts or extended hours, it is something that can be factored in, however in general they should be avoided. Napping during the day will take away from a better night’s sleep,” shares Dr. Pristas.

“Overall, it is common during this time of year for people to have difficulty sleeping. With the sun going down earlier and coming up later, we have less visual cues for daytime. Our circadian rhythm, also known as our internal clock, depends on these cues. This makes it even more important to maintain routines throughout the winter time,” says Dr. Pristas.

Why is this important?

Analyzing 21 years of data, a study found that there is a significant increase in fatal car accidents on the Sunday that we turn the clocks back in the fall, as well as on the Monday when we turn the clocks ahead in the spring. Knowing there will be an extra hour of sleep time, the study concluded that people may be staying out later, particularly consuming alcohol when the time shifts in the fall. One hour may not seem that impactful, but it is certainly causing a disturbance.

Are you having trouble sleeping? Learn more about sleep medicine or make an appointment with one of Hackensack Meridian Health’s sleep specialists by visiting HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Sleep-Medicine.

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