Is Daylight Savings Time Affecting Your Health?

When it’s time to “fall back” for daylight savings time, that extra hour of sleep may sound like just what the doctor ordered. But with all that excitement of waking up an hour later than usual, it’s easy to forget the toll it takes on your circadian rhythm, also known as your body’s internal clock.

“Changing your natural sleep cycle can be upsetting to the body” says George Darah, DO, a family medicine doctor with ProMedica Physicians. “It’s like flying in different time zones – it’s difficult to adjust.”

According to Dr. Darah, it’s typically not as stressful on the body to fall back (gaining an hour of sleep) than it is to spring forward (losing an hour of sleep).  “Most people can adjust in a day or so. A good rule of thumb is to remember it takes one day to adjust to every one hour of a time change.”

Symptoms you may experience with a time change include:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Decreased memory
  • Decreased performance
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Loss of productivity

Darah stresses that everyone isn’t affected the same way. “Get plenty of sleep, such as 7-8 hours a night, healthy diet and exercise. People who do that adjust quicker to a time change.”

More tips and tricks on how to adjust to a time change include:

  • Condition your body to wake up a few minutes earlier the week or days leading up to the time change
  • Eat a healthy breakfast
  • Go outside for sunlight exposure
  • Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated
  • Avoid caffeine
  • If you’re tired, be safe and don’t drive
  • Stick to a regular sleeping schedule -sleeping in may make you more tired and feel worse
  • Decrease your alcohol intake

Dr. Darah says people prone to seasonal effective disorder may be affected more due to the stress on the body and will have more trouble adjusting. “Give it a week or so and see a doctor if you are having serious issues. If you are feeling more depressed, having lack of concentration at work, falling asleep at work and can’t adjust, see your physician.”