Is your body prepared to ‘spring forward’?
It’s that time of year again. This Saturday night you set your clocks ahead an hour to “spring forward” for daylight saving time. And while this may mean more light at the end of our day, it comes at the cost of one less hour of sleep for a night, which can impact a person beyond those first 24 hours.
“We all lose an hour of sleep. Even though that might seem minimal, it plays out pretty significantly,” says Dr. Innessa Donskoy, pediatric sleep specialist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “We know there is an increased rate of car accidents, work mishaps and even medical errors. I’d say in the short run, the most important thing to keep in mind, especially the day and days following the switch is be safe, be careful, be cautious, be slow and deliberate. Take care of yourself and your families as we navigate what happens when we ask all of us to kind of sleep deprive ourselves.”
Dr. Donskoy says some of the data suggests a person is impacted several days out.
“What we’re asking our brains and bodies to do is effectively switch time zones. It can be lingering and really can last months, if not all the way until fall when we finally fall backwards into our rhythm again,” she says.
That’s why Dr. Donskoy says we should prepare our bodies in the days leading up to daylight saving time like we would for a trip east to a new time zone. Our circadian rhythm — our internal time — is thrown off when we travel, known as jet lag. It’s similarly impacted by daylight saving time.
Dr. Donskoy says when we travel one time zone away and lose an hour, we know our bodies could be impacted. It might be hard to fall asleep or wake up. A person may not be hungry when everyone else is or they may even be nauseated when eating.
“We anticipate this. We know it’s happening and give ourselves a little grace to adjust to the new place we are going. But when we make the daylight-saving switch, essentially traveling one time zone over eastward, asking our body to advance, we don’t give it any grace,” she explains.
Dr. Donskoy says we should prepare in the days leading up to daylight saving time like we would for the trip by doing the following:
- Wake up about 15 minutes earlier each day in the three or four days leading up to Sunday, March 12
- When you wake up early, open your eyes and expose yourself to light
- Expose yourself to light a little earlier each day leading up to the time change
“That internal advancement, the spring forward rhythm, happens gradually which is what we want. We want to not even notice that suddenly we are an hour early,” Dr. Donskoy says.
She also has some advice to prepare kids for the time change:
- Let them get up and expose them to the morning light
- Give them a hearty breakfast
- Give them all the ques that tell them to start the day
“That’s going to set them up for success for feeling sleepy later by giving them a chance to build sleep pressure throughout the day. Where they start their day is where it all begins,” says Dr. Donskoy.
About the Author
Brittany Lewis is a media relations coordinator at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She previously worked as a reporter at TV stations around the Midwest, including Milwaukee. She studied at DePaul University where she majored in Journalism and Public Relations. Brittany enjoys traveling, hanging out by Lake Michigan, trying new restaurants and spending time with friends and family.