With the hours of daylight shrinking and the temperature dropping as we transition further into the fall season, the end to daylight saving time is around the corner. On the clocks, most of us will “fall back” an hour in the beginning of November. This means we’ll gain an extra hour of sleep. For the 60 million Americans who complain of difficulty sleeping, this extra hour is welcomed. Some may be wondering, what’s with the biannual switch for daylight saving time (DST)? And what is DST’s effect on our bodies?
History of Daylight Saving Time
Most often mispronounced as “daylight savings time” (the added s after saving), daylight saving time was an energy saving idea originally conceived by Benjamin Franklin. Mr. Franklin realized even though he was waking up early, the sun was already up and he was missing daylight hours. By being awake during more daylight hours, less “midnight oil” would be burned in the night. Thus, the idea of changing the clocks to accommodate the daylight hours was first born.
The practice of DST was first adopted by Germany during World War I for the energy saving benefits during the war. Furthermore, DST was deemed mandatory for the U.S. during WWII as well. This lasted until the very end of the war where it became optional. Residents of Arizona, Hawaii, and many U.S. territories exercise their right to skip out on the clock changing craziness and opt out of daylight saving time altogether.
Tips for Time Change
The energy saving benefits resulting from DST are debated because of varying results from different studies and regions across the country, but there is a strong correlation between daylight saving time and your body’s health. The most obvious effect is on the amount of sleep one gets; many Americans already suffer from sleeping difficulties and, even though we’ll be gaining an extra hour, our bodies will still need time to adjust for sleep, meals, and sunlight.
Here are some tips for dealing with the clock changes that have stood the test of time:
- Practice Makes Perfect- The clock change happens in the very early hours of Sunday so as not to throw off the regular workweek. But this doesn’t mean that you need to start off your week in a sleepy haze, begin to practice the time change earlier. Set an individual clock or watch back an hour at the start of the weekend. Try to adjust your meal and bed times to that clock so that you’re able to transition more successfully in the comfort of your own home.
- Moving Mealtimes- If you’re used to a specific meal schedule, DST changes can throw off your body by making you hungry at times you don’t normally eat. Allow yourself light and healthy snacks as you adjust to the changed meal times, and be careful not to eat too much before bed; this can disturb your sleep, too. Be careful of how much alcohol you drink as well. If your alcohol consumption increases, your quality of sleep will be greatly reduced as an effect of the alcohol.
- Kick Up Your Exercise Routine- Exercise is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but can be especially helpful during this change. Exercise promotes energy through the release of serotonin, a chemical in your brain that helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. When properly balanced, all of these can aid in a smoother transition.
- Rise & Shine- Your body automatically responds to the natural switch from day to night, so try to exaggerate their effects. In the morning, get right up and open your blinds. Still dark outside? Turn on some bright lights and tell your body it’s time to seize the day. When you get closer to your usual bedtime, dim the lights, turn off your electronics, and only get in bed when you’re ready to sleep. These slight adjustments will clue your body into a new schedule.
Following these tips and still feel like you’re struggling? Contact your healthcare provider to speak about your current health and habits; make sure you listen to bodily clues and take care of your health. Hopefully you’ll sail through the time change without a missing a beat!