The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

How to 'spring' ahead and adapt to Daylight Saving time

How to 'spring' ahead and adapt to Daylight Saving time

The time to "spring" ahead is this Saturday and that means longer days as it gets closer to summer.

The extra sunshine and boost of vitamin D may be a relief from the dark winter days and are a sign of warmer weather ahead.

Although the extra daylight hours give us more time for fun in the sun, the time change may temporarily impact our circadian rhythm. That's our "internal clock" that regulates our sleep-wake cycles.

As we are suddenly exposed to more evening light and less morning light, our circadian rhythm is temporarily "out of sync" with the new light environment. Additionally, people tend to stay up later in the evening because of the extended daylight. These two factors can result in sleep loss and daytime sleepiness.

The importance of sleep

Sleep is essential for health, just like eating well and exercising. It is the foundation for physical, mental, and social well-being as it allows the body and mind to recharge.

"Poor sleep can negatively impact the brain, heart and mental health," said Melanie Diperna, PA, WellSpan Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine. "Sleep is necessary for memory retention, concentration, and neuron function so cells can communicate. Poor sleep is also associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, and can cause depression and anxiety."

Getting adequate sleep may also help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and prolonged illnesses, she added.

Adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep each night while school-aged children and teens need about 9.5 hours of sleep per night.

How to avoid loss of sleep as we "spring" ahead

The good news is the "spring" ahead sleep effects are temporary.

"As we get less morning and more evening light, it takes our bodies time to adjust to the change -- often one to two weeks," Diperna said.

To help our bodies to adjust more easily to this change in the clocks, Diperna recommends the following tips:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Also, be consistent with eating, social, bed and exercise times during the transition to Daylight Saving Time.
  • Keep your sleep environment quiet, comfortable, and cool.
  • Get exposure to sunlight as soon as possible. The bright light will help your "internal clock" adjust quicker to the new time setting.
  • Avoid napping.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Although it can seemingly help getting to sleep, alcohol can disrupt sleep.
  • Avoid drinking caffeine later in the day.
  • Avoid smoking, especially before bed.
  • Do not eat within three hours of bedtime.
  • Turn off all screens 1 hour before bed.

Do you have problems sleeping year-round? Take our online sleep apnea risk assessment.