I have a love and hate relationship with mornings. Once I’m up, I like watching the sunrise while firing off annoying, crack-of-dawn emails on my way to a workout class. But I must say: I despise the process of getting out of bed. My sheets are warm, and my snooze button is so inviting — which makes the “spring forward” daylight saving time change all the more difficult for me.
But I — like most people in the U.S. (except the states and cities that opt out of participating in DST, including most of Arizona, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico) — will have to deal with it. This Sunday at 2 a.m., we’ll all be “springing forward” an hour, which means more sunlight light and a temporary lack of sleep. And there are some real health effects that go along with those changes. Not to mention, a new survey conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 55% of Americans report feeling tired after the spring transition. To get a better grasp of what that means for you, I asked Dr. Shalini Paruthi, MD, a member of the AASM. Here’s what you need to know to get through this next week without nodding off at your desk.
Does daylight saving time affect your body?
The short answer is yes. Studies show that daylight saving time has some adverse effects on both health and safety. “The sudden change in clock time disrupts sleep and wake patterns, decreasing total sleep time and sleep quality, and leading to decrements in daytime cognition,” Paruthi says. “Reports have indicated that daylight saving time could have an impact on issues ranging from increased heart attack rates to car accident rates and hospital admissions.”
Paruthi says that some people are more sensitive to the effects of daylight saving than others, and it hits people harder if they go into the weekend sleep deprived. The good news is that the time change is just an hour — it’s less disruptive than even the jetlag you’d get traveling from California to New York, where there’s a three-hour time difference. Paruthi says it takes most people about a day to readjust to the spring DST shift.
How does daylight saving impact your mind?
“Sleep helps our brain function properly,” Paruthi says. “Irregular bedtimes and wake times disrupt the timing of our circadian rhythms, or ‘internal clocks,’ which can lead to symptoms of insomnia or long-term, excessive daytime drowsiness.” Ultimately, the lack of rest can lead to problems like decreased cognitive function, trouble concentrating, and general moodiness, she says.
Does daylight saving impact parents of young children more?
Reena B. Patel, LEP, BCBA, an educational psychologist, parenting expert, and guidance counselor, previously told Refinery29 that the hour difference can be especially tough on little ones who are six months to a few years old who don’t fully understand the concept of time yet. “They’re usually on a set schedule and routine, and both the children and parents can find it difficult to adjust,” she explains. But it can help kids to ween them into daylight saving time two to four days ahead, springing their bedtime forward in 15 minute increments.
How to prep for daylight saving time
Paruthi says that — no matter your age — setting yourself up for an easy transition can lie in the days before the actual changing of the clocks. She recommends heading to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier each night for up to 4 nights before the time change. You can also shift your meals and exercise routines to reflect the change.
But if you’re not the “plan ahead” type, don’t fret too much. “Heading outdoors on the morning of Sunday morning can be helpful as well,” Paruthi says, “as exposure to morning sunlight will help regulate their internal clocks.”