Can Daylight Saving Time Cause Insomnia?
Much like food and water, sleep is an essential part of human life. Our bodies desperately need shut-eye in order to process memories, repair tissue, and restore energy. Despite its importance, nearly 25% of American adults don’t get enough sleep.
You may be quick to blame the lack of sleep on stress or kids, but there may be another answer that’s not quite as obvious. Daylight Saving Time can also contribute to sleep deprivation.
The Internal Clock
Daylight Saving Time began back on March 9 and it officially ended yesterday at 2 am. During these 238 days, our internal clocks (also known as our circadian rhythm) and the external time that we see on the clock are slightly out of sync.
Circadian rhythms come from an involuntary biological system that has more power than you may think. They influence a wide variety of bodily functions like body temperature, hunger, hormone regulation, and the sleep-wake cycle. All of these rhythms are based on a 24-hour cycle that is largely regulated by the presence of natural light.
The External Clock
Ignoring the presence of external time, our bodies base their circadian rhythms on the rising and setting of the sun. Scientists have found that our sleeping patterns actually follow the timing of dawn. However, when we set our external clocks to follow Daylight Saving Time, our bodies fall out of sync.
Unfortunately, many individuals find that it’s difficult to adjust to this clash in timing. Studies have shown that even with more than 200 days of Daylight Saving Time, many people never fully adjust their circadian rhythm to match the external time. This can lead to trouble falling asleep, insomnia, and extreme sleepiness during daylight hours.
Getting Back on Track
Yesterday undoubtedly brought much-needed relief for many tired people. As we “fall back,” our bodies can once again sync up with the sun.
If the return to standard time doesn’t provide enough relief, consider these sleep tips:
- If you’re having trouble adjusting to the time change, try to avoid excessive caffeine and other stimulants. Try a short bout of exercise or a glass of water instead.
- As mentioned above, light and sleep are intimately intertwined. Being exposed to natural light during the day may improve your circadian rhythm and help you sleep better at night. You can try throwing open the shades when you wake up or going outside for lunch. Similarly, try to limit your exposure to bright light during the evening hours. Try using room-darkening shades to make your room more sleep-friendly.
- Use last weekend’s time change to jump-start your circadian rhythm. Science shows that we can slightly alter our rhythms and gear ourselves toward being a “morning person” or “night owl”. Find out which personality best fits your life and start gradually adjusting your sleep/wake schedule. Keeping a regular sleep schedule will lead to improvements in both sleep quality and daytime alertness.
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Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.
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