Winston Churchill once described daylight saving time this way: “An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn . . . We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.”
When daylight saving time (DST) ends in autumn, most of us are eager to gain the hour we lost in the spring. But there is something to keep in mind: As unlikely as it may seem, gaining an hour of sleep can still affect your sleep cycle and, subsequently, overall well-being.
In the week following the autumn DST shift, some people wake up earlier, have more trouble falling asleep, and are more likely to wake up during the night. The Harvard University Medical School points out that while many people don’t—or can’t—take advantage of the extra hour of sleep DST offers, focusing on gaining or losing that hour of sleep overlooks the bigger picture: the effect of DST transitions on the overall sleep cycle. In some cases, the small one-hour shift in the sleep-wake cycle can affect sleep for up to a week. That’s because a DST transition in spring or fall disrupts our circadian rhythms—the routine physical, mental, and behavioral changes we all experience during the course of the day. Sleep is part of our circadian rhythms, and it’s affected by outside influences, including DST. When sleep gets disrupted for any reason, our circadian rhythms can be thrown off. That can cause fatigue, sluggishness, irritability, and feeling out of whack.
Cleveland Clinic doctors agree. They note that losing an hour in the spring may have a greater impact than gaining an hour in the fall, but that single-hour gain can throw our bodies out of sync. The Clinic’s experts recognize that it’s difficult to bypass the effects of DST on sleep, but there are some valuable suggestions to help ease the autumn transition.
- Accept that it can take about a week for your circadian and sleep rhythms to adjust to the new clock.
- Stay as close as possible to your usual daily schedule; it will help your body adjust faster.
- Exercise regularly, if possible at the same time each day, to help get your sleep cycle back to normal.
- Go to sleep and get up at your usual times. Be consistent with eating, social, and work times.
- Be wary of napping—it could affect your ability to fall asleep at bedtime.
- Remember that a healthy diet and active lifestyle can help maintain your sleep cycle and your overall well-being.
To further ease the transition, Dr. Alfred Lewy, director of Oregon Health and Science University’s Sleep and Mood Disorders Laboratory in Portland, suggests trying a low dose of melatonin hormone in the evening to help coordinate the sleep-wake cycles.
Active Life Daily offers thoughtfully sourced melatonin dietary supplements. But first, consult with your doctor about the dosage and timing that’s right for you. Melatonin can cause drowsiness and interfere with other drugs.
In the end, take advantage of the extra hour DST can provide. But do it right and make it work to your benefit. Pleasant dreams.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.