Reviewed by: Juhee N. Mian, MD
The fall Daylight Saving Time change was Sunday, Nov. 1. The bad news you already know: It will get darker earlier. But there’s good news too: It’s a little easier on our bodies than the spring time change.
What Difference Could an Hour Make?
“Our internal clock can adapt to falling asleep one hour later, but it’s much harder to force our body to sleep when we’re not tired,” says Juhee N. Mian, M.D., Family Medicine physician. “Unfortunately, in an already sleep-deprived nation, the time change is just another dynamic to the struggle of clocking a good night’s sleep.”
On average, Americans sleep about 6 ½ hours per night, which for many people seems like a luxury. But compared to 1910, when Americans were averaging 9.3 hours of sleep, it’s no wonder we are seeing more and more sleep-related health issues.
Sleep affects a person’s entire body, and much more seriously than the dark circles around the eyes. Being sleep deprived can increase fatigue and irritability, lower sex drive, decrease cognitive processing, and result in a higher risk of car accidents.
Long term, not getting enough quality sleep increases a person’s risk for heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes, not to mention reducing the body’s ability to fight off diseases.
Dr. Mian suggests the following for those who normally gain a good night’s rest and are just struggling through the time change. “Get out in the sun and exercise during the day, limit caffeine intake especially after lunch and avoid taking naps so you are tired when it’s time to go to bed,” says Dr. Mian.
“A routine can help both adults and children adapt easier. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Trade out checking email, surfing the internet, and watching YouTube videos with a warm bath and reading a book,” adds Dr. Mian. “Our increased exposure to light from electronic devices such as phones, TVs, and laptops is seriously affecting our sleep cycles. Consider setting a timer on your kids’ technology that automatically shuts them down at a certain time to prevent any late-night technology use. Ideally, outside of school work, children should limit exposure to electronic devices to 2 hours a day.”
Sleep Disorder Assessment
For those who struggle with insomnia and sleeping issues, review the following situations, and rate them from 0 (would never doze off) to 3 (High chance of dozing) according to your normal lifestyle:
- Sitting and reading
- Watching TV
- Sitting, inactive, in a public place
- As a passenger in a car for one hour without a break
- Lying down to rest in the afternoon
- Sitting and talking to someone
- Sitting quietly after lunch
- In a car, while stopped for traffic or a light
If you score 7 or higher, you may suffer from a sleeping disorder and should talk to your primary care physician or consult a sleep specialist.