Mar 6, 2024 - Health

Daylight saving time: What sleep experts say about "losing" an hour

Illustration of a classic analog alarm clock reading 10:00 with shifty, heavy eyes inside the digits

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

On Sunday, we "spring ahead" to daylight saving time, even though many sleep experts wish we wouldn't.

Why it matters: Members of health groups favor standard time over daylight saving time because they say it's more aligned with our body clocks.

What they're saying: "Research shows that the abrupt seasonal shift in time disrupts circadian rhythms, leading to sleep disturbances, increased fatigue and even a heightened risk of heart attacks and strokes," says James Rowley, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

  • He adds that right after the clocks shift in March, there's "a spike in workplace accidents, road accidents and medical errors due to sleep deprivation and cognitive impairment."

Zoom in: Daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, when clocks are set forward one hour.

  • That means sunrise and sunset on Sunday will appear to happen an hour later than they did the day before.

Between the lines: Daylight is not "saved" per se, but it is shifted to remain later in the evening.

  • In spring and summer, days are naturally longer than they are in the fall and winter (when we're on standard time), regardless of time zone.

To avoid the abrupt hour of sleep loss on Sunday, sleep experts recommend that you…

  • Gradually adjust bedtimes and daily activities — like mealtimes or exercise routines — to 15-20 minutes earlier, starting a few nights before the clocks switch. This is especially important if you have kids or pets.
  • Set the clock ahead one hour Saturday night, and then go to bed at your "normal" time, to get ahead of the change.
  • Go outside in the early morning during the week of the time change to help adjust your internal clock.
  • Aim to get 7+ hours of sleep a night.
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