Health: How to wrap your head – and your internal clock – around springing forward for Daylight Saving Time

by in News

By Dennis Hwang, MD

Contributing writer

March 10, 2019 is Daylight Saving Time. Daylight Saving Time normally signals the incoming spring season, extra sunshine in the evenings for those late walks, but for some, like parents with young children, you’re dreading the hour of sleep we are all going to lose on Sunday – and the effects can be noticeable.

Dennis Hwang, MD (Courtesy of Kaiser Permanente)

We are living in a time where numerous studies are showing that 1/3 of Americans are sleep deprived and weekend sleep can’t quite make up for the less sleep time during the work week!

Basically, if you’re already somewhat sleep-deprived, giving up just one hour of shuteye 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 Dr. Dennis Hwang, at Kaiser Permanente Southern California Sleep Center in San Bernardino. “During daylight saving time, the internal sleep clock becomes mis-aligned. This complex timekeeper is controlled by areas of the brain that responds 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 issues with:

  • Concentration and mental functioning
  • Neurologic symptoms
  • Stomach and intestinal symptoms
  • Elevations in blood pressure and heart rate (and possibly even lead to irregular heart beats)

Hwang offers quick coping tips to reset your internal clock:

  • A couple days before daylight time, start going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier than your normal time (or at least go to bed earlier on the night of the time change.)
  • Melatonin 0.25 to 1mg about 2 hours before bedtime can sometimes help.
  • Sleep an extra half hour on the morning of daylight saving time.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake (and none after lunch time).
  • Avoid alcohol and exercising before bedtime
  • Put your phone (and tablets/computers) away at least an hour before bedtime!
  • When using your electronic device earlier in the night, wearing blue-blocker glasses or turning on the blue light filter on your phone/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 or Kaiser Permanente’s care, visit www.kp.org.