Why Daylight Savings Affects Sleep & How You Can Prepare

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Woman Sleeping Against Pillows

Image by superpeet / iStock

With this "spring forward" weekend upon us, it's sinking in that warmer weather really is around the corner. Sure, the time change gives us a few extra hours of sunlight to keep us more alert throughout the day, but our bodies will likely require time to adjust—so how do we prepare?

We consulted integrative physician Roxanna Namavar, D.O., who explained why the time change affects our circadian rhythms and how to cope with that lost hour.

How can changing the clocks affect our sleep?

"Our bodies are tailored to have hormonal shifts based on sun exposure," Namavar told us. "Whether it's fall back or spring forward, your body is forced to shift its natural rhythm." 

The main hormones affected are cortisol (the stress hormone) and melatonin, which regulates our circadian rhythms. When we gain an hour in the fall, little by little our bodies begin shifting their cortisol and melatonin levels. Meaning, when we lose that hour in the spring, our hormones have to undergo another significant shift. 

"It can make you feel more tired, and you might have a harder time falling asleep," Namavar said.

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How can we help manage the shifts?

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One of the best ways to help manage the hormonal imbalances is by taking a sleep supplement before the change occurs.

Along with supplementation, controlling your sun exposure is imperative. If you're hoping to sleep in, consider wearing a sleep mask or investing in blackout curtains. On the other hand, if you have to wake up early for work, school, or other responsibilities, consider keeping your blinds slightly drawn so the morning's natural sunlight seeps in.

"A sun lamp with a 10,000-lux lightbulb can also support your body's internal setting," she said. "These sync with your alarm clock, and the light slowly gets brighter to mimic the sunrise." 

Everyone's internal clock is different, but generally, it will take about a week for our bodies to fully recover and rebalance from spring forward.

Why is this important?

Sleep is the No. 1 key element for cognitive functioning and mood balance, according to Namavar. "If you're not getting enough sleep, it'll increase your cortisol levels, your inflammatory levels and actually spiral you so you're not able to sleep as well later on."

All of those elements can weaken our immune systems and leave us more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Along with getting quality sleep, focusing on these three things can keep you healthy in the midst of flu season and the coronavirus health concerns.

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