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Health/Science/Tech

How & Why Losing That Hour's Sleep To Daylight Saving Time Makes A Difference

Woman tapping analog alarm clock as she yawns while waking up in bed.
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Woman in bed yawns as she awakes to an alarm clock.

Turning the clocks back to daylight saving time provided an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day at the expense of an hour's sleep in the beginning.

Dr. Carl Boethel, Chief of the Division of Pulmonary Critical Care for Central Texas, with Baylor Scott & White Health told KERA's Sam Baker daylight saving time doesn’t affect everyone the same way.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

Your Body’s New Normal:

It takes about a week or two to acclimate to the new time change. The body should be at a level where people are able to wake up with this new normal of getting up with the time change shifted. So people probably are doing a little bit better with this now than they were in that Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday following the shift to daylight saving time that occurs in the spring.

Is A Longer Adjustment Unusual?

Not necessarily. A lot of other factors go into the fatigue and tiredness that occurs when this happens. It depends a lot on people's lifestyle: Retirees, perhaps, who do not have the same morning routine or schedule as a working person may do just fine immediately after the time change. But for people who have to get to a job, they're probably suffering a little bit more. So it's not unusual for people to be more tired, but within a two-week period, most people should have acclimated to a new schedule.

Why Losing An Hour Makes A Difference

It is sleep deprivation, a circadian rhythm disorder that occurs. The biological clock of most people is geared towards a set time. And you upset it by just an hour in that one direction, they're going to lose an hour of sleep. Most likely a lot of people do not adjust that initial sleep time on the Friday or Saturday evening prior to the change. And that tends to occur even into Sunday. So what happens then? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, people are still going to bed later because biological rhythms that tell them it's time to go to sleep are still stuck on that later time. They having to get up earlier, and they're basically losing an hour of sleep in those mornings.

Some Pretty Serious Consequences

There is evidence that in the first three days there is a higher incidence of myocardial infarction (or heart attack) as well as strokes. There are also some data showing people are more likely to have an automobile accident in that early time.

Does The Time Change Affect Everyone The Same?

Every individual is different, but there are people who can adapt very easily and people who adapt very poorly on the ends of the spectrum and, in the middle, is the majority of people. Most adjust pretty regularly. However, it’s much harder on some folks than others, and there are people who it really doesn't affect at all.

First Steps Toward Alleviating Sleep Deprivation

  • A good bedroom environment: Dark or minimal light and free from significant noise.
  • Turn the off the TV. There's a reason why television commercials tend to be a little bit louder at nighttime.
  • Don't drink a cup of coffee or eat a lot of food right before bedtime. Cut off caffeine by about lunchtime.
  • Avoid sodas, alcohol, and tobacco right before bedtime. The body tends to metabolize the alcohol and that tends to cause some degree of sleep fragmentation, so people don't rest as well.
  • Eating right before bedtime can cause significant digestive problems, gastroesophageal reflux. If the stomach’s turning out more acid to break up the food, that acid may go up into the esophagus and cause some degree of sleep disruption.

RESOURCES:

Daylight Saving Time

How Sleep Is Affected by Time Changes

How to manage daylight saving time

5 Ways To Get Better Sleep

Why daylight saving time may be bad for your brain and health

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at sbaker@kera.org. You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

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