“Falling Back” into Bed? Daylight Savings Time and Sleep

Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday, November 6 at 2 a.m. EST. And while we all love the thought of “falling back” and gaining an extra hour, it may not mean another hour’s sleep each night. Sad, but true!

Winston Churchill was quoted as describing Daylight Saving Time as the phenomenon of us “borrowing an hour one night in April and paying it back with golden interest five months later.” Mr. Churchill was a known optimist that and took that same view on this routine time change each year.

The reality is that many of us don’t take advantage of this “extra” hour of sleep that we’ve been given, and as a result, end up disrupting our daily sleep-wake cycle for several days after the changing of the clocks.

Researchers around the globe have made attempts to find out if losing (or gaining) an hour of sleep due to Daylight Saving Time has any serious impact on our health. They’ve been able to recently link the first day of the Spring loss of an hour to an increase of heart attacks and a corresponding decrease in heart attacks when Daylight Savings Time ends in Fall. But what about that disruption in our sleep-wake cycles?

The reality is that our focus on losing or gaining an hour of sleep due to Daylight Saving Time is casting a shadow over the bigger picture – the effect of the time change on the sleep cycle.

A study done by Dr. Yvonne Harrison at Liverpool Moores University in England proved that the seemingly insignificant one-hour change in our sleep cycles can affect how we sleep for up to a full seven days after Daylight Saving Time begins or ends.

Research has shown that only a small percentage of us actually get the extra sleep that the end of Daylight Saving Time promises. And during the following week, many of us find ourselves waking up earlier than usual, have issues falling asleep, and are more likely to awaken during the night.

The bottom line is that sleep is all about rhythm – the influence of the outside world does affect how well we sleep – including how light or dark it is outside at the time we normally go to bed.

Health experts recommend being aware of your body’s natural rhythms (especially at this time of year) to make sure that you’re supporting your body’s sleeping needs. And they also state that establishing a regular sleep and wake schedule can help you to maintain your sleep hygiene and overall health.