Rachel Ziegler, M.D.
Fall back. Spring forward. Many people have heard this saying and it helps us remember which way to set our clocks for the start and end of daylight saving time. Although it would be nice to gain an hour of sleep twice a year, that's not the case.
On March 14, we will lose an hour. Altering your sleep schedule can have a greater effect on your health than you may think, with adverse effects greatest in teenagers and those who have poor sleep habits to begin with. Learn why sleep is an element of success for children.
With daylight saving time, we lose an hour of sleep in the spring. This loss causes sleep deprivation and sleepiness in most people, and can linger for days to weeks. To minimize the effects, you can make gradual adjustments.
I recommend these tips to manage the transition to daylight saving time:
- Go to bed 15 minutes early, starting several days before the change, and increase by 15 minutes every couple of nights. Make an extra effort to be well-rested the week before the time change.
- If you feel sleepy the Sunday after the change to daylight saving time, take a short 15- to 20- minute nap in the early afternoon — not too close to bedtime.
- Assess how a nap affects your sleep quality. For some, napping can make nighttime sleeping more difficult. For others, however, a short nap can be revitalizing without affecting nighttime sleep. Learn how to get the most out of napping.
- Avoid sleeping in an hour longer in the morning.
In general, you should try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This helps your body regulate its sleep. If possible, wake up at the same time on the weekends, which can make Monday mornings easier to bear. Read more about ways to get better sleep.
Regardless of the time of year, proper sleep is an essential part of life.
There are many benefits to practicing good sleep health, as well as some risks for cutting sleep too short:
- Learning and memory
Sleep allows the brain to better process new experiences and knowledge, and improves comprehension and memory.
- Metabolism and weight
Sleep helps regulate the hormones that affect and control appetite. Studies have shown that during sleep deprivation, the normal hormonal balance is affected and appetite increases.
- Cardiovascular health
Serious sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat. Learn more about sleep apnea signs and symptoms.
Insufficient sleep can make people more agitated or moody the following day. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to long-term mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety.
During sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines. These proteins deal with stress, fight infections and decrease inflammation in the body. Without enough sleep, these protective proteins and other important infection-fighting cells are reduced. Our body needs adequate sleep to fight infections and inflammation.
Lack of sleep can take a toll on perception and judgment. In the workplace, its effects can be seen in reduced efficiency and productivity, errors and accidents. It also can be deadly, such as drowsy driving fatalities.
Make sleep health a priority, and you'll start seeing the positive effects.