Feel Good Friday – Daylight Saving and Sleep

For most Americans (not you, Arizona and Hawaii!), Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the unofficial light at the end of the winter hibernation tunnel. It’s the “oh crap!” to start the Suns Out, Guns Out campaign and the tombstone for those winter coats that hide the extra layer of blubber we’ve all developed since October.

For the parents of young children, it also begins the bedtime whining about the sun still being out when it’s time for bed.

Spring forward seems to be way worse than Fall back, and science seems to back that up when it comes to the sleep that we lose. There’s certainly a lot to be gained with the extra hours of sunlight, but sleep is becoming more and more of the forgotten health factor.

Daylight Saving Time has been a hotly debated topic of late, with the Senate unanimously passing legislation in 2022 to do away with the bi-annual manipulation of the clock. The observation as we know it now (March & November) is only about 16 years old, when legislation was passed to standardize the time changes.

The bill is currently waiting on the House to pass the bill, but with other things like the trillion-dollar deficit and a 2024 election looming, it’s not to be something that’s likely to get priority any time soon. But should it become a bigger issue based on health, and not daylight?

Studies have shown that there are more car accidents in the days following Daylight Saving when people lose an hour of sleep, and there are more heart attacks following Daylight Saving.

Science has shown that Daylight Saving throws of our natural sleep patterns, contributing to a larger “sleep debt” due to longer-lasting darkness in the mornings and more light in the evenings. The argument for making Daylight Saving permanent is a flawed one, and most experts agree that the Standard Time (when DST ends) is the more appropriate schedule to make permanent.

After all, the amount of daylight doesn’t change, just the hours that daylight is most prevalent, and science has shown that the earlier the sun rises, the better it is for our sleep habits, and thus, for our health.

For children, sleep is prime growth time, and the delayed darkness actually stunts the release of melatonin in their brains, making wake up times even more difficult than it already is for most kids.

Sleep is the magic pill that no one seems to want to take. When we sleep, our body does its best recovery, and has even been shown to be huge in weight-loss efforts. With more and more workaholics, and thanks to the binge watching of TV shows and social media information, Daylight Saving should no longer be about energy savings and crop growth. It should be about making us healthier and happier people in a time when both of those things seem to be at an all-time low.

Here are a few tips to help save yourself some sleep during Daylight Saving, and build better sleep (and waking) habits:

  • Develop a sleep schedule and stick to it. Seven to eight hours is best, and consistency is equally as important as how much.
  • Get outside and into the sunlight as quickly as you can. Studies have shown that getting light in your eyes first thing in the morning can boost brain function and will help set your body clock.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol in the hours directly before bed.
  • Gradually adjust your wake-up time. Wake up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual for a few days and go to bed at the same time (you and your kids).