How Does Daylight Savings Time Affect Your Health?

The time is coming — we’re adjusting our clocks for daylight savings time on November 4th, altering it by an hour and moving the clocks backwards.  

daylight savings time

And while we’re all pretty used to doing so twice a year, it still gets us every time. Here’s why.

For this specific period on November 4th, it will be getting darker earlier each evening, says Bill Fish, a certified sleep science coach and founder of Tuck. “While less sunlight may impact our emotions, let’s look at how the annual end of daylight savings time impacts our sleep health,” he says.

In theory, we gain an hour of sleep when we head to bed on Saturday, November 3rd. If you are accustomed to waking at 8 AM, it will actually be 7 AM after the clocks change. “While this singular hour may seem minimal, our bodies are creatures of habit and it does shock our internal 24 hour clock and our circadian rhythm,” Fish says.

What’s more, it can be a bit gloomy out, which can make us sadder. “Walking out of work at 5:30 with the sun having already set can result in some winter blues where we feel a bit more lethargic and frankly just aren’t as happy,” says Fish. All of that said, it is actually better for our sleep, though, he explains, so stick with it!

Here are a few tips from sleep experts on ways to better adjust to the daylight savings time transition.

Gradually Transition Into the Time Change

“Try to go to sleep 15 minutes earlier or later (depending on the change) every few days starting one week before the time change to allow your body a smoother transition,” explains Dr. Haissam Dahan, DMD, MSc, PhD, lecturer at Harvard and McGill University and owner of Ottawa TMJ & Sleep Apnea Clinic.

Changing your cycle by an hour in only one night will have an impact on your daily efficiency for the first few days, meaning you might be a bit slower and less productive than usual. Yet gradually transitioning will help you avoid such an impact, so you won’t find yourself feeling sluggish at the office or forgetting about those pressing deadlines.

Keep a Bedtime Routine

“Try to do the same things every night to help train your brain to recognize your ideal bedtime. Have supper at the same time, do the same activities at night and go to bed at the same time,” advises Dahan. When you aim for consistency and create a routine, your mind and body will understand that it’s time to shut down for the night and allow you to fall asleep quickly, he explains.

Exercise and Eat Well

“Exercise can help you sleep better. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, three times a week or more,” says Dahan. Just don’t work out too close to bedtime, which can be stimulating. Aim for 2-3 hours prior to shut-eye.

In addition to working out, eat nutritious foods that won’t upset your stomach or keep you awake (that means avoid sugar and caffeinated treats, like dark chocolate, after a certain hour). You should also try sleep-inducing foods. “Eating healthy is vital for optimal sleep, and some foods are ideal to have before you go to sleep: decaffeinated chamomile tea, a glass of milk, almonds, and bananas,” to name a few, he says.

Relax Before You Sleep

“Avoid doing anything that will cause stress or excite you before getting ready for bed,” says Dahan. That means, avoid watching thrillers or reading a stimulating novel that you just can’t put down.

And always avoid responding work-related emails, which can add stress or get your brain working too hard right before downtime. “Instead, consider reading a book in incandescent light. You want to do something that is calming to get your body and mind ready for sleep,” he says. (Yes, keep that book enjoyable but not overly exciting.)

Want more from aSweatLife? Get us in your inbox!

Let us know!

At Home Live

About Isadora Baum

Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, author, and certified health coach. She writes for various magazines, such as Cooking Light, SHAPE, Men's Health, Women's Health, Health, Prevention, POPSUGAR, Runner's World, Bustle, and more. She is also the author of the book "5-Minute Energy." She can't resist a good sample, a killer margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. Beyond magazines, she helps grow businesses through blogging and content marketing strategy.