How Daylight Savings Time Impacts Sleep Health

by Melissa Chichester

Twice per year (unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii), the majority of the United States experiences Daylight Savings Time (DST).

DST exists to “save” natural light and was established in 1966. In the fall, we “fall back” and set the clocks back by one hour. In the spring, we “spring forward” by turning the clocks ahead. So how do these time changes impact sleep health? 

Your social media feeds are likely peppered with exasperated parents of young children whose routines were interrupted during this time shift. Although one hour may not seem like a drastic change for most of us, time changes do impact sleep health and sleep quality. This is because it impacts the circadian rhythm, or the “sleep-wake cycle.” 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, when it is darker in the morning, the sleep-wake cycle is “delayed.”

This is why it’s harder to wake up when it is dark in the morning. When your natural cycle is not adjusted to natural dark/light cycles, it may disrupt regular sleep patterns. This impact is similar to experiencing jet lag while traveling across time zones but is more subtle. 

>>Sleep Support for Older Adults

Daylight Savings Time sleep tips 

So what can you do to adjust to DST? Whether it is the fall or the spring, you can take several steps to prepare for this shift. 

Nap: Taking a short nap between 10-20 minutes can help you feel rested and restored if you are tired during the day.

Improve your sleep hygiene: Evaluating the conditions in which you sleep go a long way in preserving sleep health. Before the time change, avoid caffeine after morning hours, and do not drink alcohol before bed. 

Get outside: Spending time outdoors increases your exposure to natural light and helps maintain the natural sleep-wake cycle of getting tired at night and staying alert during the day. 

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Change your sleep schedule: If you know that adjusting to the time change will be difficult, shift your sleep schedule slowly in anticipation of the change. Start by moving your sleep in 10-15 minute increments the week before springing forward or falling back. By the time the shift happens, your sleep cycle will be better prepared! 

St. John's Wort flowers in a bowl relaxation

Consider sleep supplements: To encourage relaxation and sleep support, a supplement may help, especially to promote sleep health during occasional interruptions.**

  • Herbal valerian root is used to support relaxation and is an excellent choice for those seeking to improve their quality of rest.**
  • St. John’s Wort has been used for centuries and supports a calm and relaxed feeling or mental state.**
  • Melatonin is a clinically studied sleep support ingredient and works with your body’s natural sleep cycle.** It is used for occasional sleeplessness.** In addition, melatonin is available in several forms, including sugar-free gummies and in liquid melatonin, making it easy to fit into any lifestyle. 
  • Another relaxing agent is 5-HTP,  a precursor to serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter involved in sending messages through the nervous system.  5-HTP supplements may promote a calm and relaxed mood.**

Be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.

Sleep is one of the cornerstones of health and well-being. Tranquil rest every night is important to ensure you feel rejuvenated, energized, and at the top of your game! With a little bit of planning, you can ensure your sleep cycle works with Daylight Savings Time.