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A sleep expert shares four practical tips for coping with the time shift and minimizing negative effects on your health.
Whether you like it or not, daylight saving time begins on Sunday, March 12, when we move clocks forward by one hour at 2 a.m. Light will last longer into the evening, and the sun will rise later in the morning than during standard time.
Many of us welcome the opportunity to spend more time outdoors with the extra hour of daylight in the evenings, but the annual ritual of “springing forward” also means that we lose an hour’s sleep. This can leave many of us feeling sluggish and tired.
“It is harder for most people to spring forward than to fall back,” said Sarah M. Richey, MD, service line medical director of Sleep Medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado. “Essentially, we must start our day an hour earlier, and this temporary loss of sleep can cause tiredness and even worsen performance on tasks. Springing forward may also have health consequences, as studies have shown that during the week after the start of daylight saving time there is an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and serious car accidents.”
It’s not just adults who feel the effects of the time change. “Children and teens are unfortunately not immune to the sleep deprivation caused by the time change,” Dr. Richey added. “They may have a harder time in school and be at increased risk of behavior problems. Teen drivers also need to be reminded of the dangers of drowsy driving.”
Richey notes that our internal sleep cycles tend to normalize within a few days after daylight saving time starts, but there are some measures you can take to help your body adjust. She shared four practical tips that can help you adjust to and minimize potential negative effects during the transition.
- Gradually adjust your sleep schedule. Several days before the time change, consider setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier each day so that it’s not such an abrupt change on the day that daylight saving time starts.
- Create a bedtime routine. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine can help your body recognize when the time is right to wind down and prepare for sleep.
- Get some morning sunshine. Get outside and soak up some sun first thing in the morning. This will help your brain produce melatonin earlier in the evening, helping your biological clock adjust to the change.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Avoid lighted screens, caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals in the hours before bed. These can disrupt your sleep patterns, making it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Following these four simple tips can help you wake up with a spring in your step the first Sunday of daylight saving time, instead of dragging your feet for several days after the time change.