You may just now be recovering from the return to Standard Time from Daylight Saving Time.
On Sunday, November 4, instead of the clock turning from 1:59 to 2:00 a.m., most Americans “fell back” into standard time—meaning their clocks ticked ‘back’ to 1:00 a.m. again. Shift-workers got paid for an extra hour according to federal law, and the rest of us may have enjoyed the extra hour of rest—but the truth is that interrupted sleep schedules resulting from shifting the clocks back and forth may be bad for our health.
Some will argue that the extra time you get to spend outdoors in summer during Daylight Saving Time is worth it. But some medical professionals disagree.
“The time change is kind of a society-imposed jet lag,” says Dr. Ilene Rosen, who serves on the board of directors for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
It’s simply a fact: because of DST, our circadian rhythms are shocked twice annually. “Ideally we would be able to allow our internal circadian rhythms to move along naturally…” said Dr. Rosen, who provided some tips for easing back into Standard Time this fall:
Avoid Staying Up Late
After ‘falling back’ to Standard Time, “your circadian rhythms will cause you to want to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier,” said Dr. Rosen. “One of the biggest mistakes that people make … is staying up later and thinking that they’re going to get an extra hour of sleep,” she adds. Your body will tend to naturally wake you early in the morning, so don’t count on extra time sleeping after staying up late.
Use the Sun
The fall time change is easier than the spring, said Dr. Rosen. This is particularly true for those who work during daylight. Morning sun exposure after switching the time back helps to ease the transition.
Take Your Time
If you have a little extra time in the morning, “it might ease the transition if you go to sleep and wake up 10-15 minutes later each day the week before the time change,” said Dr. Rosen. Or add a nap to fend off drowsiness if you are still struggling with the change back to standard time.
Fall Standard Time isn’t nearly as nasty as changing clocks ahead in the spring: each year, on the Monday after the springtime switch, hospitals report a 24% spike in heart attack visits around the country. Researchers estimate that the sleep deprivation may take weeks for recovery.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, we’re also prone to make more deadly mistakes on the roads: Car crashes in the US caused by sleepy daylight-saving drivers are estimated to cost 30 extra people their lives.
Your body is “… fragile and susceptible… to even just one hour of lost sleep,” said sleep expert Matthew Walker, author of How We Sleep. “The brain… is just as sensitive as the heart to very small perturbations of sleep,” Walker explains in his book.
Fewer than half of all countries participate in the biannual clock-changing ritual. And not everyone in the US, either: Hawaii and Arizona already ignore DST, as it makes less sense to shift the clocks when you live nearer the equator– the sun rises and sets at roughly the same time there every day. California voters also just voted to never again change their clocks. And here at home, Florida approved the same idea–but it requires approval from Congress.
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