Managing the Consequences of Springing Forward
It’s time to get ready for spring! Nebraskans are always ready to welcome spring after the cold winter. But it also means it is time for springing forward and losing an hour of our day when daylight saving time happens. Most of us are affected by this time change, finding that it can take up to a week of adjustment, especially if we are one of the 47 million Americans who are sleep deprived. I know, for me, that extra hour of sleep I get in the fall is refreshing (literally due to that extra hour of snoozing). Not only that, in the fall it feels as if the day just goes on forever and I get so much more done. So I can only imagine the impact on us when the opposite happens and we lose an hour. Most of us can identify the sluggish tiredness that comes with losing that hour. We might want to consider what else is happening.
The difficulty in adjusting to the change in our time comes from interrupting our circadian rhythm. This cycle regulates when we feel fresh and awake, when we are tired and sleepy, when we are hungry and when our hormone productions cycle. People complain that daylight saving time affects their health, mood, internal rhythm and sleeping patterns. Every system in the body is tied to our sleep patterns. Sleep affects how much we eat, our metabolism, weight and immune system, our ability to cope with stress, our creativity and insight, how fast we process information and learn new things and our memory processes. More research is showing that anything that negatively impacts these significant systems in the body also impacts the brain. Signs of chronic sleep deprivation include confusion, brain fog, immune deficiency, depression, obesity, and diabetes, which are all conditions that are now tied directly to the brain. (Perlmutter, 2013) Add disrupting the sleep patterns to an already sleep deprived body and things magnify.
In fact, research shows a link between heart attack incidences and daylight saving time. In one study, heart attacks increased significantly for the first three weekdays after the transition to daylight saving time in the spring, whereas there were fewer incidences of heart attacks after the transition in the fall. The study cited the most reasonable explanation for the findings is the adverse effect of sleep deprivation on the cardiovascular health. This can also provide the explanation for heart attacks most commonly occurring on Mondays. (Janszky, 2008)
Another study focused on the impact of the human condition and daylight saving time. One study linked daylight saving time with suicide. The research showed that male suicide rates rise in the weeks following the beginning of daylight saving. This research suggests that changes in our chronobiological rhythms impact us and can be destabilizing in vulnerable individuals. (Health solutions to swing to daylight savings time, 2014)
Daylight saving time is especially hard on older adults. Chronic sleep problems such as sleep apnea and insomnia plague 40% of older adults. There is now evidence that there is a relationship between disrupted sleep and cognitive decline. For us baby boomers, that should be enough to get our attention. Daylight saving time increases these sleep issues.
Consider how to counteract daylight saving time by sticking to your “already developed and practiced” good routine and good sleep hygiene. Ten percent of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia. Start getting enough sleep year round. In that sleep pattern, you need to be getting good quality of sleep. Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, exercise and eat your dinner several hours before bedtime. Create bedtime rituals that are calming, allowing your body to begin to prepare for sleep. This may be taking a hot bath, brushing your teeth and/or reading a bit before shutting the lights out. Go to bed and rise at the same time every day. Make sure your sleeping environment is dark and cool and keep electronics and televisions out of the bedroom. The light from anything in your bedroom can signal to your brain that it isn’t sleep time. Banish snoring partners and pets from your bed.
Everyone has times of sleep disruption and insomnia. If your insomnia persists, pay attention and consider seeking medical attention as untreated insomnia may lead to depression and anxiety. Although prescription and over the counter drugs are available, other options may be preferable to exhaust first. You may benefit from some cognitive behavioral therapy, neurofeedback (training the brain to function more optimally) or hypnosis to help you start to regain a good sleep pattern.
Sleep enhances our overall well-being and gives us the ability to manage our day in a positive way. With a good sleep hygiene pattern established, you can move your bedtime earlier a few days before daylight savings time and begin acclimating yourself to the time change. We will all get through the week after daylight savings time. However, without good sleep already in place, daylight saving time can impact our ability to function to our fullest potential. So make sure you really are sleeping soundly and having sweet dreams.
Health solutions to swing to daylight savings time. (2014, Jan 3). Retrieved from www.timeanddate.com: http://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/daylight-saving-health.html
Janszky, I. a. (2008). Shifts to and from daylight saving time and incidence of myocardial infarction. The New England Journal of Medicine .
Perlmutter, D. (2013). Grain Brain. New York: Little, Brown and Company.Tags: losing an hour of sleep, Managing Savings Time
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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