All of us need plenty of sleep in order to function at our peak performance level. To lose hours of sleep does not translate to mere tiredness; it can cause health problems that are more serious than you may think.
When we don’t get enough sleep, we might face the following issues:
- Increased crankiness and unpredictable mood swings
- An inability to get started in the morning, thus adversely affecting the work productivity of the whole day
- A weakened immune system, leading to more illnesses and an increased vulnerability to viruses.
- An increase in depressive thoughts, which might lead to instability in our everyday lives
For all these reasons and many more, it’s clearly imperative that we need to get a proper dose of sleep every single night. Many people already suffer from a lack of restful sleep, while insomnia is growing more common in the United States as we speak.
Unfortunately, however, the practice of Daylight Savings Time in many countries might see a further deterioration in their population’s sleep cycles. While the idea of having a Daylight Savings Time might have some benefits, the fact remains that several people will find their sleep cycles getting disturbed because of it
About Daylight Savings Time
Daylight Savings Time denotes to the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour during the summer months when the days are long. The reasoning behind this practice is that people will technically be getting up at the same time as before, but they’d actually have more time in the daylight to get things done. They would also sleep an hour earlier at night, which should even out their sleep cycles. In the fall, everyone is supposed to set their clocks back again when the days get shorter.
The 2018 Daylight Saving Time, for instance, began at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning. This means that it was time to “spring forward” and adjust the clocks by one hour either before going to bed or after waking up.
The Issues With Daylight Savings Time
All of us humans are a creature of habit, repeating behaviors that have become stuck in our regular routines. Consequently, many of us have created patterns that we depend on physically, mentally, and emotionally.
One of the behaviors that we may usually depend on is to go to bed at a normal time, from where we have certain sleep patterns to follow. With the daylight saving time coming into play, these patterns are disrupted. While we may have manually set our wall clocks, alarm clocks, and phone clocks an hour back, our circadian rhythm is still the same.
In layman’s terms, our circadian rhythm is something like our body’s internal sleep clock. If we follow it correctly, we’ll be giving our bodies the rest they need and hence get the energy that we need to lead a decent life. This includes waking up refreshed, being able to hold our own at work, and fighting off minor illnesses without much trouble. For most people, the circadian rhythm shows a need for a large chunk of sleep at night and a bit of downtime in the early afternoon. The exact timings would vary from person to person, but changing up the rhythm itself is easier said than done.
The Unwanted Effects of Daylight Savings Time
Losing a few hours of sleep has already made a lot of us feeling groggy and cranky. If there’s one more thing that we love to do after moving our clocks, it’s complaining more about how sleep-deprived we have become.
It’s not just about being sleepy and irritable. Healthy, normal people who have become slightly sleep-deprived may see an effect on their performance while they are at work or in school. There are times when sleep-deprived people may experience times of “slow reaction.” For instance, they might even fall asleep while standing up, even with their eyes open, for a fraction of a second. If they’re in a safe place when this happens, such an occurrence isn’t too much of an issue. However, if this occurs when they’re driving, operating heavy machinery, or are engaged in any job that requires delicate handling, the result could be extremely dangerous and even fatal. There are several instances of people crashing their cars while falling asleep at the wheel; we only have to look them up to realize how dangerous a lack of sleep can be.
People who suffer from sleep loss are also prone to become less able to handle tasks that require a lot of concentration. Because of their lack of sleep, a person’s ability to concentrate can considerably decline, causing them to become less attentive.
Accidents at work, at home, and on the road are also likely to increase in severity following the time change. This further goes to show that even a small amount of restricted sleeping can impact our ability to do everyday tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and driving. Even losing just an hour’s worth of sleep can remarkably change how we do things each day.
Why Does Proper Sleep Matter?
American adults need to have a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night, at least according to many studies. There are also some recent studies reporting that adults who are short sleepers (those who get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep within 24 hours) are likely to suffer certain chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and depression compared to adults who get at least seven hours of sleep every day.
For the children, the effect of lack of sleep due to the time change could be even more challenging. Compared to adults, children and teenagers are generally thought to require more hours of sleep as their bodies and brains are still developing. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children aged 6-12 should have at least 12 hours of sleep a day, while teenagers should regularly have eight to ten hours of sleep a day to encourage optimum physical, mental, and emotional health and development.
According to researchers, even one hour’s loss of sleep can disrupt a child’s brain development. This negative effect can even become dangerous. It can have a negative impact on a child’s brain maturation, as well as the child’s capability to control certain behaviors (which also include bullying). Lack of sleep can also cause inattentiveness in school which could adversely affect their grades.
It’s clear here that daylight savings time does have a very serious influence on our health, routine, and overall quality of life. On the other hand, we can’t ignore the promised advantages of this routine either. Let’s take a look at what we can do in order to control the negative aspects and make the most of this practice.
How to Mitigate the Effects of Daylight Savings Time on Our Sleep
So, what should you do to minimize the impact of daylight saving time and still be able to have adequate sleep? Below are some simple tips that might help us along the way. They might not be able to reset our internal body clock all at once, but would certainly make our systems more amenable to the change:
1) Try to catch up on sleep before the weekend. This will help you avoid oversleeping on the weekend itself, which is a habit that many people develop. In general, it’s not recommended that we reserve Sundays and Saturdays for sleeping in even when there’s no Daylight Savings Time to worry about. If we do, we risk upsetting our circadian rhythm in any case.
2) Set an alarm for an earlier bedtime. If the government has announced Daylight Savings Time for a certain date, try going to bed at an earlier time right away. Having a couple of weeks to adjust to a new sleeping routine could help you and your family get used to the extra hour of daylight without much hassle. It will also help your kids and teens get used to a new study schedule.
3) Go to bed at your usual time (meaning, the time before the DST). You may choose not to practice DST in your household at all, at least not in terms of your sleeping routine. However, if you have morning classes and a job to get to, you will have to wake up earlier than usual no matter what.
4) Avoid drinking caffeine after noon. While caffeine might have different effects on different bodies, it’s generally acknowledged as a stimulant and an obstacle to falling or staying asleep.
5) Avoid bright light in the evening. This includes the blue light emanating from our phones, laptops, TVs, and similar devices. Such light could trick our brains into thinking that we still need to be awake for hours.
6) Avoid napping within a few hours of your normal bedtime (unless you’re really exhausted). We recommend having a short siesta after lunch to get through the midday slump, but that’s about it.
7) Avoid drinking alcohol – Yes, drinking help may make you groggy and help you to sleep quicker. However, it might disrupt your sleep cycle. As you sleep, your body will begin processing alcohol as a stimulant halfway through the night, which causes you to wake up. Also, alcohol may suppress your breathing, causing sleep apnea.
Many people complain about the time change each time Daylight Savings Time either begins or ends. We now know that there are several ways to diminish the adverse effects of Daylight Savings Time, but these steps might not solve the problem for everyone. Unfortunately, the practice of setting our clocks forward or back is usually mandated by the governing authorities in our country. We may choose to move to another country, but simply avoiding Daylight Savings Time might not be enough reason for such a major decision.
Apart from the sleeping aspect, this practice also causes confusion, frustration, and animosity among certain parts of the population. Some religious groups have objected to Daylight Savings Time being practiced in their region, while several students have found themselves late or way too early for their classes in the first few days of changing the clocks. However, we still feel that the best route might be to go with the flow and stay updated on the announcements as they come. A little organization can go a long way, and Daylight Savings Time can actually help us become more productive if we prepare ourselves.