Every year we set our clocks one hour forward between March and November to save natural light during summer, spring, and early fall, and then set it backward between November and March – this year it is on March 13th and November 6th. Moving our clock in either direction changes our perception of light, which is our cue to maintaining our 24-hour natural cycle. This year, we’ll be setting our clocks ahead an hour on March 13th.
Outwardly, our daily schedule adapts to the changes right away. However, our body takes some time to adjust. Let’s learn how clock change affects our sleep:
The Effect of Daylight Saving on Our Sleep Cycle
Many people wouldn’t feel any effect on their sleep cycles after the clock change. However, others would find themselves struggling to stay awake in the daytime and sleeping on time when night falls. Some people also experience moodiness, differences in appetite, and other changes with the clock change.
Question is, why does an hour of difference in our clocks affect our daily sleep cycles or other routines? It’s because our body gets used to its schedule. We get used to sleeping and eating at certain times every day, even if we don’t check the time.
While the world outside starts settling to a new time that is an hour ahead or back, our circadian rhythm (internal body clock) is still working at the same old-time and takes its cues from sunlight and darkness.
The effects of clock change are experienced differently by different people. Some people aren’t affected at all, others experience minor issues, and some experience serious health and lifestyle issues, often related to the disturbed sleep cycle. These issues include:
- Headaches on one part of the head, known as cluster headaches. This usually lasts from a few days up to several weeks.
- A disturbed sleep cycle affects the production of certain hormones, including ghrelin which regulates hunger. As a result, clock changes can also lead to changes in appetite.
- Lack of sleep often elevates the symptoms of mental health issues such as moodiness, depression, anxiety, and stress.
How to Adapt to Clock Change and Maintain a Healthy Sleep Cycle
While clock change can lead to some lifestyle issues, it can easily be dealt with by following some coping tips. In a matter of a few days, you can reset your internal clock according to the new time and maintain a healthy sleep cycle. Here are some of the most effective ways to do it:
- Start altering your bedtime a week before the clock change. In the last few weeks of February, start waking up 20-25 minutes earlier than your regular time. Gradually increase that time to an hour to make a smooth transition.
- If you have trouble sleeping and waking up during a clock change, pay attention to your sleep hygiene. It includes putting away from electronic devices 60 minutes before bedtime, having a comfy mattress and cushion to support better sleep, eliminating alcohol and caffeine consumption before bed, etc.
- Spending more time outside in the sunlight increases serotonin levels which improve mood and also drives the circadian rhythms by elevating feelings of tiredness and sleepiness.
Keep these tips in mind and practice them every year to enjoy a smooth transition every time the clock change occurs.