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How to avoid losing sleep during daylight savings

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Daylight saving time begins on March 10, and you’re set to lose an hour of sleep. Here’s how to find restfulness even after the time change.

It’s that time of year again. On March 10, daylight saving time (DST) will begin. You’ll have to set your clocks ahead 1 hour. Unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii. They are the only 2 states in the U.S. that don’t observe DST.

The time change happens early in the morning, at 2 a.m. At that time, 2 a.m. instantly becomes 3 a.m. And a whole hour of your precious sleep vanishes. It might not seem like much, but that 1 hour of lost sleep time can be a big deal.

“Americans already barely meet the recommendations for sleep. Loss of another hour for this 1 night in the spring can have a significant impact,” says Mark Zaetta, MD. He’s an internal medicine specialist at Optum Health in Tucson, Arizona.

This sudden loss of sleep triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. It can take up to 3 days for the body to reset and adjust to the new schedule, says Dr. Zaetta. In fact, studies suggest that “springing ahead” can lead to problems, such as:

  • Headaches1
  • Heart attacks and strokes2
  • Changes in mood and suicide attempts3
  • Traffic accidents4

You may get less sleep throughout the DST season too. The sun naturally sets later and later over the next few months.

“More light in the evening delays your body’s production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin,” explains Carol Rosen, MD. She’s a board member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

As a result, you tend to go to bed and fall asleep later during DST. And if you can’t sleep in later, that can result in less sleep overall. In fact, studies show that people sleep about 30 minutes less per night during DST, says Dr. Rosen.

To help you make the adjustment without losing sleep, follow these tips.

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Tip #1: Begin adjusting to the time change a few days before the switch.

You can ease yourself into the time change. Start by adjusting your sleep schedule before March 10. Go to bed about 15 to 20 minutes earlier each day leading up to the change, suggests Dr. Zaetta. Set an earlier wake time too.

You may want to adjust other routines, like mealtimes, to the new schedule. That will help you stick to your earlier sleep and wake times.

Tip #2: Adjust your clock ahead of time.

The time change doesn’t officially happen until early Sunday morning. But go ahead and reset your clocks on Saturday evening. Then aim to go to bed at your usual weekday sleep time. And set your alarm for whatever time you’ll need to get up on Monday morning.

“Practicing the new ‘earlier’ wake time on Sunday gives you a head start on your week ahead,” says Dr. Rosen.

Tip #3: Use light and darkness to help your body adjust.

There’s a reason you turn out the lights when you sleep and open your shades in the morning. Light and darkness tell your body when it’s time to be awake or asleep.

“We are more alert in the daytime when there’s bright sunlight. And we are sleepier at night when it’s dark,” says Dr. Rosen.

To help you adjust to the time change on March 10, try to get some sunlight on Sunday morning. Then dim your lights in the evening.

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Tip #4: Clear your schedule if you can.

What’s on your agenda for the week after March 10? You might want to put off any critical meetings or challenging tasks if possible.

“Mental clarity can sometimes be affected by a sudden shift in time,” says Dr. Zaetta. Studies show that DST may make it harder for you to focus and make decisions. So you might not be yourself for a few days after the time shift.

Tip #5: Squeeze in a power nap

Maybe you’re really struggling on Sunday because you didn’t get enough sleep. A quick power nap can help.

But keep it to under 30 minutes and set an alarm if you need to. “Too long of a nap will interfere with nighttime sleeping. And it could make it harder to adapt to the new wake/sleep schedule,” says Dr. Zaetta.

Tip #6: Try to get enough sleep

Before and after the time change, it’s important to get enough sleep every night. That’s at least 7 hours for adults and at least 8 hours for teens.

“Getting plenty of sleep will ensure you are rested and ready for the week ahead,” says Dr. Rosen. “Guaranteeing your sleep lowers your risk for sleep loss during the transition.”

Here are a few tips to help you sleep soundly:

  • Put away your phone, laptop or tablet at least 30 minutes before bed. The light from the screen can disrupt sleep hormones that help you fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake time.

Do you have to follow DST?

The simple answer is yes. You can’t just tell your family or boss you’re not following DST. But switching your clocks twice a year could be a thing of the past soon.

In 2022, the U.S. Senate passed a bill called the Sunshine Protection Act. This bill would make DST permanent. This means that the next time you “spring ahead,” the clocks will stay that way for good. The time won’t “fall back” in the fall.

The bill still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the president. And it’s unclear whether or when that will happen.

But there is still debate over whether daylight saving or standard time should be permanent. Standard time is the time setting between November and March. Many sleep and other health experts, including Dr. Rosen, argue for permanent standard time. She says it aligns better with the body’s clock and with the timing of sunrise and sunset.

On the other hand, permanent DST would mean more daylight in the evenings in winter. People who are for it say that more evening light could reduce crime. And people may be more active after work.

But this year, the time change is happening. And now you’re ready.

SOURCES

  1. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology. Cluster headache: Epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical features, and diagnosis. Published April 2018. Accessed January 26, 2023.
  2. Journal of Clinical Medicine. Daylight saving time and acute myocardial infarction: A meta-analysis. Published March 23, 2019. Accessed January 26, 2023.
  3. Health Economics. Saving light, losing lives: How daylight saving time impacts deaths from suicide and substance abuse. Published October 2022. Accessed January 26, 2023.
  4. Current Biology. Permanent daylight saving time would reduce deer-vehicle collisions. Published November 21, 2022. Accessed January 26, 2023.

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