Daylight Saving Time: how does it affect us and how to ease

Winter is coming and to bring the ending of Daylight Saving time: the moment when we have to set our clocks one hour back to adjust it to standard time.

And although it’s only 1 hour time difference, this change can cause variations in our health that not only affect our sleep but also our mood, physical and intellectual performance or even eating habits, among others.

Our body can take up to several days to get used to the new schedule, but you can follow a few tips to reduce the negative effects of time change on your health.

Why do we change the clocks every year?

Daylight Saving Time change was proposed as an economic measure of energy saving to take advantage of daylight hours in a more effectively way. Clocks are advanced by one hour at the beginning of Daylight Saving Time and when DST ends, clocks are set back as if to repeat one hour. Some studies claim that this measure helps us save between 5% and 10% of energy consumption worldwide.

How does this change affect our sleep?

Our body has its own internal clock to control the natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours. In fact, melatonin is the hormone that helps control our circadian rhythm: it depends on how much melatonin we secrete.

During the daytime when there is light we secrete less melatonin to indicate our body that should stay awake. On the contrary, the darkness of the night stimulates the production of this hormone and prepares us to sleep. Daylight Saving Time causes an imbalance between our internal clock and the time clock. Our brain has to readjust to the new situation.

Cómo nos afecta al sueño el cambio de hora

Children and adults, the most affected by DST

Daylight Saving Time changes doesn’t affect us equally: children and adults over 50 years old are the most affected by DST because their daily routines have very fixed schedules.

Children under school age may have more problems to wake up early in the morning, and even breastfed babies can experiment variations in their feeding those days. Adults over 50 years will have more trouble falling asleep.

Main effects of Daylight Saving Time

The time change makes some people sleepier than usual, while other have more trouble falling asleep, or are more likely to wake up during the night.

This can affect people in different ways:

  • Irritability
  • Humor changes
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration and attention
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Worse intellectual and physical performance
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Asthenia
  • Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems

Daylight Saving Time, similar to a jet-lag

Daylight Saving Time is kind of a jet-lag: in both cases our body needs a few days to adjust our own circadian rhythms with the clock time. In fact, switching to winter time is like travelling to the West (we would gain hours) and to summer time is like going to the East (we would lose hours).

How to prevent the effects of Daylight Saving Time

Normally each person needs about two days to adjust to the new clock, but there are some very simple tips that we can follow to reduce the effects of time change on our health.

Cómo nos afecta al sueño el cambio de hora

Get used to the new clock hour a few days before

To start preparing you body you can gradually adapt your routines to the new schedule, especially meals and timing of wakening and bedtime.

Avoid napping

Naps affect our sleep-wake cycles, so be careful not to modify your sleep patterns.

Have a light dinner

It is recommended to eat dinner at least a couple of hours before bedtime so that the body can digest and rest better. A light dinner will prevent you from stomach heaviness: avoid spicy or high-fat food, sweets and red meat.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants of the nervous system, so you should better reduce their consumption before going to bed. You should also quit alcohol before bedtime: it may cause awakenings during the night and increases the presence of snoring and sleep apnea.

Do some exercise

When we exercise not only we feel better about ourselves, but we reduce our stress level and achieve a better rest. In addition, we feel more tired and go to bed sooner.