SRU biology professor offers tips on adjusting to end of Daylight Saving Time
The Slippery Rock University community is reminded that Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m., Nov. 3.
Oct. 31, 2019
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Many sleep-deprived people will welcome the end of Daylight Saving Time as an opportunity to enjoy an extra hour of sleep. However, before you "fall back" at 2 a.m., Nov. 3, by setting your clocks an hour earlier, remember that your body still needs "time" to adjust to the seemingly small change.
"Whether we are springing forward or falling back, we are changing the external cues and how they are paired with our internal clock," said Amber Eade, assistant professor of biology at Slippery Rock University, who was trained as a neuroscientist and also teaches anatomy and physiology. "Our bodies like to be set at a fairly consistent state. We get used to patterns and when there's a change, we get a discrepancy between our internal states and our external cues. It takes our body awhile to adjust and retrain the internal clock."
A subtle shift of our sleep-wake cycle, even by one hour, can have significant effects. Researchers around the world have studied the effects of DST, with many finding harmful effects from losing an hour in the spring, including slight increases in fatal automobile accidents the Monday after DST starts, to heart attacks the following week.
Based on this, it's easy to assume that, because of fall's gain, people should be more alert and well rested in the days following the end of DST. "The problem is that most people don't actually sleep that extra hour ... and thereby delay their body's adjustment period," Eade said.
A study by Yvonne Harrison, published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, found that only a minority of people actually slept during the extra hour in the fall and during the following week, those that didn't, woke up earlier each day, woke up during the night and had trouble falling back to sleep.
The reason people don't adapt right away is because humans, like almost all living organisms, respond to circadian rhythms that regulate timing. According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, circadian rhythms are "physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle," which "respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment." An example of a circadian rhythm is being awake during the day and asleep at night.
A best practice in the week following the end of DST, according to Eade, is to adjust to your new schedule as quickly as possible by sleeping at the hours you plan to do so until DST starts again and not stressing the body. The Centers for Disease Control recommends at least seven hours of sleep for adults each night.
"Establishing and having a routine is important so your body isn't stressed and can identify your sleep cues and wake cues," Eade said. "Doing things like drinking a lot of caffeine will not help your body adjust; instead it gives it a false sense of energy and you'll just end up crashing."
To practice proper sleep hygiene, Eade recommends setting consistent, daily sleep and wake-up times; developing calming rituals before going to going bed to wind down; using more natural light in your bedroom; disconnecting from electronic devices and not relying on the weekends to make up for lost hours of sleep because your body will have to adjust again.
"Being in a bright environment during the day and a dark environment at night helps your brain distinguish when you are supposed to be awake and when you are supposed to be sleeping," Eade said. "Your brain produces chemicals that help you fall asleep and it knows when to do it by shifts in light. We have a lot of biological clocks in our body and a lot of them are regulated by those that are associated with sleep, which tells us when we are going to rest and when we aren't."
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