I’ve got good news and bad news.
On the positive side, winter’s on its way out! The days are getting longer, the temperature’s warming up, and the sun’s rising ever-higher in the sky.
However, with spring around the corner, there’s also cause for concern when it comes to your sleep:
That, if you hadn’t guessed, is the bad news. As the clocks shift forward an hour they don’t just make our evenings longer. They also fiddle with our sensitive circadian rhythms! And all manner of serious side effects ensue…
First, to shed light on the dark side of daylight savings. And second, to give you some practical ideas to lessen its impact on your sleep (and, therefore, your life!).
Read on to discover how to spring forward positively, powerfully, and with your precious sleep routine intact.
Although the impact of the clocks going forward an hour is relatively minor compared to major changes, such as shift work or jet lag, many people still experience significant problems in the days that follow.
Here are a few of the most striking issues:
Yes, you read that correctly! One widely-cited comparative study in the American Journal of Cardiology (1) concluded that the shift to (and from) DST “might transiently affect the incidence and type of acute cardiac events”. The researchers add that these effects were modest, but it remains an alarming finding! It shows how serious even small changes to our sleep patterns can be.
It makes intuitive sense that tiredness related to disrupted circadian rhythms and losing an hour’s sleep could make you more susceptible to road accidents following the switch to DST. But this idea isn’t just anecdotal- various studies back it up! For instance, one reputable piece of research in Perceptual and Motor Skills (2) found that “the percentage of alcohol-related fatal crashes increased significantly during the first seven days after these changes in Daylight Savings Time.”
A high-caliber 2009 study from researchers at Michigan State University (3) suggests that the risk of having an accident doesn’t stop when you step out of the car either. Published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, they found that “workers sustain more workplace injuries and injuries of greater severity” on the first Monday after switching to DST.
Those studies tell us in no uncertain terms that the effects of switching to daylight saving time aren’t as trivial as many people assume. And, speaking from experience, if you already struggle to get a solid night’s sleep, the idea of adding fuel to that fire’s far from attractive!
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do about it…
Check out these tips for coming away unscathed on March 13th and in the days thereafter:
The hardest changes to handle tend to be swift and sudden. They catch us off-guard and give us no time to adjust! Keep that in mind whenever DST comes around. Pre-empting the change by making gradual adjustments to your current routine should mitigate its impact. For example, in the days leading up to March 13th, consider going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier than usual. Making a concerted effort to be as well-rested as possible will make a difference too.
On the topic of being well-rested, we recommend easing yourself into the swing of things after the clocks go forward. Avoid filling your schedule up to the usual extent and save any unessential stressors for a later date. Remember: not only might the loss of sleep make you more tired than usual, but the chance of having an accident goes up too! Taking things easy and pacing yourself in the aftermath of March 13th should help you weather the storm.
Don’t underestimate the value of taking a nap when you’re feeling sleepy during the day! In another well-cited study in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine (4), researchers found that naps of less than 30 minutes do everything from boosting wakefulness to enhancing performance. Try not to overdo it though. The same study notes that “longer naps are associated with loss of productivity and sleep inertia”.
Did you know that the timing of your meals sends a signal to your body about what time it is? Anytime that you’re looking to move your sleep earlier, you’ll want to shift your calendar earlier to facilitate this change. So in the lead-up to March 13th, end your dinner (and consider skipping the alcohol) a bit earlier in the days leading up to DST. Your sleep will thank you!
While you’re moving your dinner earlier, don’t forget about your screentime and indoor lighting! We want to close down the party incrementally faster in the days leading up to the big clock shift!
The transition from winter into spring is always wonderful. However, it comes not without its hurdles: the switch to daylight saving time! Known to cause a world of trouble in various aspects of life, it can be an added burden for anyone who already experiences problems with their sleep. If you’re all too familiar with the issue already, then I hope the info and ideas in this article will help you navigate DST better this year.
 Jiddou, M. R., Pica, M., Boura, J., Qu, L., & Franklin, B. A. (2013). Incidence of myocardial infarction with shifts to and from daylight savings time. The American journal of cardiology, 111(5), 631–635. Website: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjcard.2012.11.010
 Hicks, G. J., Davis, J. W., & Hicks, R. A. (1998). Fatal Alcohol-Related Traffic Crashes Increase Subsequent to Changes to and from Daylight Savings Time. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 86(3), 879–882. Website: https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.19184.108.40.2069
 American Psychological Association. (2009, September 1). Changing to Daylight Saving Time cuts into sleep and increases workplace injuries [Press release]. Website: https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.19220.127.116.119
 Dhand, Rajiva,b; Sohal, Harjyotb Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults, Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: November 2006 - Volume 12 - Issue 6 - p 379-382 doi: 10.1097/01.mcp.0000245703.92311.d0