On the morning of March 27, 2017, throughout Europe, many groggy and tired people will roam the streets going to work. The weekend before marks the beginning of daylight savings time (or summer time in Europe) when we’ll spring forward and advance our clocks for one hour. Longer summer days are the result of the tilt of the Earth’s axis, and daylight savings time helps us take advantage of these longer daylight hours.
Nevertheless, daylight savings time is a social change which cannot really fool our internal, biological clock. Our bodies are programmed to follow circadian rhythms, they follow the sun and the natural change of light and dark. So, on Monday after the change, people sleep 40 minutes less in average, and throughout the next six months our organism never fully adjusts to daylight savings time.
Early Bird vs. Night Owl
Chances are that losing this hour of sleep will leave you feeling sleep deprived, but depending on whether you’re a night owl or an early bird this change might be even harder on you. A small study from 2008 showed that this transition was much more problematic for night owls. However, early birds will have more troubles with the time change that happens in fall.
Effects of Daylight Saving Time
Although some major events, like Chernobyl disaster and the destruction of Challenger space shuttle, are linked to the consequences of the disruption in circadian rhythms, the evidence of the effects of daylight savings time change is pretty mixed.
There is, however, proof of increased occurrence of traffic accidents on Monday following the time change. In the following three weeks there’s an increase in the number of heart attacks. At this time of the year, work injuries seem to be more common too.
Adjusting to Daylight Savings Time
So, what can we do to adjust our internal clocks to ease into this transition?
Gradually adjust to time change. Try to set you alarm clock 15 minutes early for several days before the change.
Go to bed earlier if it’s possible, so you can get enough sleep and be ready to wake up earlier. You need to aim at those recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Take a nap. Allow yourself a short nap in the afternoon if you feel that you didn’t get enough sleep, but make sure it’s not longer than 20 minutes.
Expose yourself to light during the day and turn the light down at night. Light suppresses the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. So it is great if you get as much light exposure as possible during the day, but don’t expose yourself to bright light at night.
Stick to your bedtime routine. Gradually relax before bed by reading a book or running a hot bath. Avoid using electronic devices because of blue light exposure that will affect your sleep.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and also exercising for at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.
Everything said, don’t worry - although it is proved that our bodies never fully adjust to the daylight savings time throughout the six months, it takes about a day to get used to the change and continue normal functioning. Stick to your bedtime routine, be aware of how much sleep you need, and you are good to go.
And finally, don’t forget to let us know how it all went.