By Dr. Anuj Chandra, Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders
(March 15, 2021) — Now that you’ve turned your clocks ahead by an hour, how’s your sleep? Are you getting enough? Maybe you think “So I lost an hour of sleep, no big deal.” Not so fast.
Setting the clock forward is more than losing one hour of sleep on one night. Your internal clock has just experienced a sudden change that can impact your sleep, and therefore your health.
We tend to think of the annual “spring forward” time change as an annoyance, but it can really cause problems. The issue is about disrupting your sleep-wake cycle, not just losing an hour. Research shows that the spring time change can cause increased driving accidents, increased workplace accidents, lower school performance, and even a small increase in heart attacks.
Here’s what I recommend to help you adjust to the time change:
- Regular Exercise. Your body needs it anyway, and it helps to make you tired at bed time, even if your body isn’t quite used to the new time. Be sure you stop exercising at least two hours before you go to bed, or the exercise might actually make it harder to sleep.
- Consistent Sleep Time. Your body really needs a consistent schedule for going to sleep and waking up. Research confirms that changing your bed time—even as little as a half hour—means you do not sleep as well, so find a time that works for you and stick to it.
- No Extra Sleep. It’s good to sleep a little bit late on the first day after the time changes, but after that it’s better to stick to your schedule.
- No Extra Stimulants. Caffeine and sugar might help you feel a little more alert for a short time, but they don’t solve the problem. Consistent, healthy sleep is as important as exercise and good nutrition. There is no substitute.
- Be Patient. It can take up to a week to get used to the new time, so be patient with yourself.
Anuj Chandra, M.D., D.ABSM, founded the Advanced Center for Sleep Medicine in 2005, an independent sleep medicine clinic equipped with the latest sleep testing equipment and with locations in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since 2005, Dr. Chandra has served on the international teaching faculty of the National Sleep Medicine Course, a physician education initiative to bring cutting edge sleep medicine training to India. For more on Dr. Chandra and the Advanced Center for Sleep Medicine, visit www.sleepforhealth.org.