If the anticipation of daylight savings time makes you groan, you're not alone. Approximately two billion people in 70 countries experience this one-hour change that can often disrupt sleep schedules and throw us off our regular routines.
But did you know that daylight savings time can affect your health? Research shows that losing that hour of sleep in spring can lead to higher risks of heart attacks, car accidents, workplace injuries, depression, and even overeating.
The good news is that practicing healthy sleep habits year-round can make a big difference in your health. Here's how to make the seasonal adjustment as painless as possible.
If you already know the seasonal time change will be a struggle for you, try planning for it by gradually adjusting the time you go to bed and wake up each day. If you do this in 15-minute increments each day, when it comes time to change the clock, your body will be more ready for it.
Getting as much sunlight as possible when you wake up in the morning can give your body the jump start it needs to go about the day. In addition to retraining your body's circadian rhythms and signaling that it's time to wake up, sunlight helps us produce more of the feel-good hormone serotonin. You can also boost your body's serotonin levels throughout the day by using a UV-free sun lamp.
Losing an hour of sunlight can lead to a drop in your Vitamin D levels, which can have an adverse effect on your mood. To boost your levels, you could take an over-the-counter supplement or try increasing the amount of salmon and tuna in your diet.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends practicing good sleep hygiene year-round to increase your chances of falling — and staying — asleep when daylight savings hits. That includes eliminating caffeine, alcohol, and snacking before bedtime, turning off blue light-emitting mobile devices at least one hour before you hit the sack, and creating a comfortable sleeping environment.
For a better night's sleep, keep your bedroom cool and dark, try wearing an eye mask or ear plugs to help you zone out, and practice calming bedtime rituals like stretching, deep breathing, or taking a warm bath.
After making the above adjustments to your sleep habits, if you're still having difficulty getting a good night's rest, you may want to consider stopping by your nearest CityMD or asking for a referral to a sleep specialist. This can help you rule out more serious medical conditions, like a sleep disorder, that could be getting in the way of your nightly routine.
As a board-certified Physician in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Frank Illuzzi has served in many clinical, academic, and leadership roles. Most recently, he served as the Chair of Emergency Medicine at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Connecticut. Dr. Illuzzi also holds an academic appointment as Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Frank Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. Among his many achievements, Dr. Illuzzi was a finalist for the Magida Award for “Outstanding Young Physician of the Year.” He has published many articles and textbook chapters in his areas of academic interest, and is a sought after lecturer for national medical conferences.