Earlier this year in March, we set the clocks forward by an hour and just a few weeks ago on November 1st we set our clocks back by an hour, marking the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST).
While most people expect to enjoy more light and get extra sleep, DST can actually impact your sleep cycle. You may wonder why exactly we change the time and how can you prepare for changes you could experience. We have a few tips that can help you better adjust!
Daylight Saving Time: What & Why?
Germany was the first country to practice DST which started in 1916. The U.S. soon followed and implemented it in 1918 as a way to conserve fuel during World War I. A few key dates that highlight the evolution of DST include:
- 1942 – 1945: DST was enforced during WWII
- 1945 – 1966: DST practiced inconsistently with some states not implementing it. This caused confusion and industries (transportation, broadcasting) advocated for standardization.
- 1966: Congress passed the Uniform Time Act. This federal law established an actual protocol for states to follow within each time zone.
- 2005: The Energy Policy Act is passed which outlined the current dates of DST:
- Second Sunday in March: spring forward
- First Sunday in November: fall backward
Though federal law allows states to not observe DST, the majority of states do with the following exceptions:
- Hawaii and Arizona
- American territories: Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands
No longer living in global war times and with the advancements of technology and rapid modernization, why do we still practice DST? There are two key reasons:
- The U.S. Department of Transportation which oversees DST argues that it still saves energy. But studies challenge this, finding that households use more electricity during DST.
- Several industries benefit from DST. More daylight means more time for consumerism. Retail industry, outdoor business, car industry etc. benefit from extended daylight hours so their lobbying groups continue to advocate for DST.
As technology continues to change the way we live and work, DST may become an outdated practice. But until then it is helpful to understand how it also impacts sleep!
Impact on Sleep
Though a one-hour time change seems insignificant, it can actually really impact sleep by disrupting our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm refers to our internal process of regulating the sleep-wake cycle which guides humans and other mammals. This natural 24-hour cycle regulates behavior, appetite, mood etc. and is informed by light exposure. The one-hour change in time which is a human (and not natural) construction, can cause our circadian rhythm to be misaligned and this can result in:
- Overall less sleep and reduced quality of sleep
- Altered sleep cycles causing a person to be less awake in the morning and more alert in the evening
- Changes in mood; contributing to depression, anxiety etc.
- Long-term impact on circadian rhythm, causing it to be permanent misaligned which can lead to greater health issues
There are ways you can help mitigate these possible effects of DST and improve your quality of sleep.
Sleep Tips During DST
There are useful ways you can prepare for DST and maximize your sleep and wellness. A few tips include:
- Establish a Sleep Routine: sleeping and waking up at the same times each day encourages healthier sleep. Be sure to also receive a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per day – 7 to 9 hours is the general recommendation. Your routine should be the same for weekends and not be limited to the days you work!
- Create Comfortable Conditions: to get the best quality of sleep, you want to make sure that you have created the most comfortable environment. This means having quality bedding, bed, lighting, soothing sounds and smells etc. which can really help you transition into easeful sleep.
- Avoid Screens before Bed: exposure to screens often make it more difficult to fall asleep. It is also easy to become distracted and stay up on your devices. So be sure to avoid screes at least 30 minutes prior to sleeping.
- Be Physically Active: increase your time outdoors during the day, take walks, exercise, do yoga etc. which helps you stay active, improving sleep!