Autumn’s daylight savings time begins in November leaving many folks wondering does the time go forward an hour or back? One popular phrase is all you need to help remember which way to move our clocks and that is “Spring forward, fall back.”
In the fall, we go back an hour at 2 a.m. (EST) and have an opportunity for an extra hour of rest. In the spring we are not so lucky, we lose an hour of sleep. However, one thing is perfectly clear that with either time change it messes up our circadian rhythm or sleep cycle due to the time change.
Switching our clocks in the fall doesn’t necessarily benefit our health or sleep cycle, in fact changing our sleep pattern any time can cause health consequences. According to WebMD, losing sleep causes depression and insomnia; it makes one forgetful, can cause weight gain and, most of all, it can impair judgment that can affect your job, driving skills and other important decision making skills over the course of a day. The bottom line of Daylight Saving Time is that the benefits of getting an extra hour in the day don’t necessarily benefit sleep, according to Harvard expert Dr. Anthony Komaroff.
Dr. Komaroff says, “Each of us experiences predictable physical, mental, and behavioral changes during the course of a day. These are called circadian rhythms. The daily cycle of light and dark keep them on a 24-hour cycle.” Komaroff indicates that many people don’t, or can’t, take advantage of a weekend’s extra hour of sleep. And the resulting shift in the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle can disrupt sleep for several days.
Winston Churchill was much more optimistic in his description of Daylight Saving Time when he said,
“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.”
Research indicates that losing one small hour of sleep has an impact on our daily schedules in one way or another and it takes up to a week for our sleep cycle to adjust. In the fall, most people do not get that extra hour of sleep instead they get a weeks worth of trouble falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. Those most affected and struggle to adjust to a changing sleep cycle are short sleepers who get less than 7.5 hours sleep a night and larks who are those that get up with the birds.
It is hard to avoid the effects of Daylight Saving time on sleep. Dr. Komaroff advises to give it a week to adjust to the new clock. Exercise regularly at the same time each day, if possible, and that alone may help get your sleep cycle back in tune. Go to bed and get up on a schedule can help and allow an afternoon nap or two during the week following the change in time can be a good way to relax and restore your sleep cycle.