By Terry Kanakri
As Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, Nov. 6, you may ask yourself, how will this affect my sleep cycle? Will there be a downside to the time change, or are the benefits too many to be a cause for concern?
The answer is ‘Yes,’ ‘Maybe’ and ‘Yes,’ as it’s a mixed bag, according to Dr. Kendra Becker, a Sleep Medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
“The upcoming time change will be welcomed by many as we will gain one full hour of sleep,” Dr. Becker explained. “However, for some people, that can present a challenge. For those who tend to go to bed early and wake up early, some will have difficulty adjusting, as they’re likely to wake up much earlier the next morning, and that could impact their daily schedule.”
But, it’s nothing to lose sleep over, notes Dr. Becker, as long as you prepare in advance.
“Start preparing a few days before the time change takes effect,” she said. “Try to go to bed 15 minutes later each night. Most people have no problem staying up later, and for those who do, go to bed later incrementally each night. That way, your body will likely adjust to the time change much better.”
But, what about the downsides of the time change? According to Dr. Becker, there aren’t many, but some do present a challenge.
“Because it will get much darker in the morning, for many early birds, it will be much harder to get out of bed,” she said. “The way we’re programmed, we need more light to wake us up because of our natural circadian rhythm. Additionally, studies have shown that because evenings will be dark earlier and mornings will be dark and longer when many people drive to work or take their children to school, there are often more car accidents, so be careful while on the road.”
Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, Dr. Becker says some simple advice, regardless of any time change, will help you get a good night’s sleep, which studies show is critically important to good physical and mental health. That is true all year long, she said.
“Stick to a sleep routine, don’t lay in bed when not sleeping, don’t drink caffeine after 12 p.m., and avoid alcohol at least four hours before bedtime,” Dr. Becker stressed. “Keep your bedroom cool, and don’t watch TV or check your email on your phone while in bed as you want to eliminate as much light as possible before sleep, and blue light is your enemy. Also, exercising will help you sleep better, as will blocking out distracting noise.”
So, if you follow this advice, you’re likely to sleep well after the time change on Nov. 6. At least until we lose that precious hour of sleep on March 12 when we’ll return to Daylight Saving Time.
About the author: Terry Kanakri is a senior media relations specialist at Kaiser Permanente, Southern California Region.