“It’s well known that a small shift in time can have a large impact on our body clock and our health, and the time change causes sleepiness and fatigue. For a young, healthy individual, a one hour difference shouldn’t make that much impact,” said Dr. Yosef Krespi. He is director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“But the older or younger you are, the more significant the impact. Individuals with pre-existing sleep conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea will have an even more difficult time adjusting,” he said in a hospital news release.
Also, research has found that heart attacks, traffic crashes, and workplace accidents increase just after the switch to daylight saving time.
“The impacts of daylight saving time are likely related to our body’s internal circadian rhythm, the molecular cycles that regulate when we feel awake and when we feel sleepy,” Krespi said.
“Light dictates the amount of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin that our bodies will produce,” he explained. “Transitions associated with the start and end of daylight saving time disturb sleep patterns, and anytime we lose sleep, it can result in a slowdown in performance, concentration and memory.”
Krespi offers the following suggestions:
- If possible, spend at least an hour outside in sunlight to help your body clock adjust to the time change. Be sure to follow good sleep habits, including limiting heavy eating, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and not doing any complicated tasks–such as computer or tablet use–for at least an hour before bedtime.
- For children, cut infants’ and toddler’s nap times by about one-third to prepare them for a bedtime that might otherwise feel too early. If young children go to bed late because of the time change, let them get their normal amount of sleep in the morning.
- If you can, get outside with your children for an hour to help their body clocks advance.