For many, Daylight Saving Time is a welcome relief from the cold, dark winter. It also serves as a marker for brighter days ahead with extended daylight hours. The increase in daylight hours comes with health benefits. However, the downside is it can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle.
According to an American Academy of Sleep Medicine health advisory, the change to daylight saving time can have a negative impact on sleep duration and sleep quality, lasting approximately five to seven days. Those who regularly get insufficient sleep may experience the most adverse effects from the time change.
To help you prepare for this weekend’s time change and maintain restful sleep, we caught up with Gracie Gilmore (pictured left), a nurse practitioner at the Bon Secours Sleep Disorders Center in our Richmond, Virginia market.
Q: How is sleep sometimes improved with additional sunlight?
A: Not only does sunlight positively affect our mental health and bone health due to a serotonin and vitamin D release, there are important sleep-related benefits to sunlight exposure as well. Research has shown that in order for our circadian rhythm to maintain its 24-hour cycle, it must be continuously reset by exposure to zeitgebers or “light givers.” Exposure to bright, daytime light is the primary zeitgeber associated with an increased peak of nighttime melatonin release, which promotes sleep.
Exposure to bright, daytime light can lead to better sleep because there is a greater peak nighttime release of melatonin regulating your sleep/wake cycle. Conversely, exposure to light at night like televisions, computers, and cell phones can reduce the nighttime melatonin release and negatively affect your sleep/wake cycle.
Q: What tips should we follow to achieve better sleep before the time change?
A: With some advance preparation, the negative impacts of the change to daylight saving time can be reduced. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends practicing the following tips in the week leading up to March 14th:
- Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep, and teens should get at least eight hours of sleep per night before and after the time change.
- Gradually adjust your sleep and wake times beginning two-to-three nights before the time change. You can do this by shifting your bedtime 15 or 20 minutes earlier each night.
- For a few days before the time change, begin to adjust the timing of other daily routines that are “time cues” for your body. For example, start eating dinner a little earlier each night.
- On Saturday night, set your clocks ahead one hour in the early evening. Then go to sleep at your normal bedtime.
- On Sunday, head outdoors for some early morning sunlight. The bright light will help set your internal clock, which regulates sleep and alertness.
- Go to bed early enough on Sunday night to get plenty of sleep before the new week begins on Monday.
At Bon Secours, we know that a good night’s rest can continually improve your quality of life. That’s why we use cutting-edge sleep disorder treatments with a network of patient care professionals to make sure you get the best care possible.
Learn more about the sleep medicine services we offer.