If you love sleep, it’s probably already hard to drag yourself out of bed early in the morning as it is. But the start of daylight saving time may make that process of getting up even more difficult. Losing sleep when the clocks “spring forward” an hour doesn’t just have us reaching for an extra-large cup of coffee; it is also linked to a number of health issues and even vehicle crashes, according to data from the Cleveland Clinic.
Of course, OnStar*1 Members know that Advisors are available 24/7 if they experience a problem on the road, including health emergencies and vehicle crashes. But even with that added peace of mind, below are some tips on how to prepare for daylight saving time.
Your daily schedule for sleep and wakefulness is controlled by your circadian rhythm, which is tied to your 24-hour body clock. Losing an hour of sleep affects that rhythm and consistency, increasing the risk of having a heart attack or other cardiovascular events. “We see a significant rise in heart attacks the Monday after daylight saving time compared to other Mondays during the year,” says Michelle Drerup, psychologist and director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “Less sleep is causing increased inflammation and that has something to do with it.”
Drerup says researchers have also seen data that suggests there may be an increase in mood disorders and suicides due to the disruption caused by the time change. “Some people just have a lot harder time adjusting to that than others,” she says.
In a study of Canadian drivers published in 1996, researchers saw an 8% rise in crashes on the Monday following the spring time change. And a newer study in the United States from 2020 found a similar result: the fatal traffic accident risk increased by 6% following the time change, with the highest risk in the morning. Drerup believes there are several reasons behind that increase. People are more tired or may be rushing to their destination because they woke up late. Because the sun rises later after the time change, it’s darker out in the morning, so it can be harder for drivers to see other cars or pedestrians.
“We’re already a chronically sleep-deprived society. So losing that hour of sleep takes away from what we may not be getting enough of already,” says Drerup.
Losing an hour of sleep during daylight saving time is very similar to jetlag, according to Drerup. She says there are several ways you can get ready for and deal with the time change so it doesn’t affect you as badly.
Start preparing a few days early. Gradually alter your bedtime several days before the transition. Drerup recommends that you start going to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier than usual because your body will need the extra time to make up for the lost hour. Additionally, wake up 15 to 20 minutes earlier a couple days before the time change so you’re more tired in the evening and want to go to bed sooner.
Don’t take long naps. Once you lose that hour of sleep, you may get tired during the day. But you should “nap in moderation,” says Drerup. “Keep it to only 20 to 30 minutes so you’re not taking away from your sleep drive.”
Stick to your routine and schedule. Try to be consistent when it comes to exercise, eating and even what time you usually drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages during the transition to daylight saving time. You should also expose yourself to the bright light when you wake up because it helps set your body’s circadian rhythm, according to Drerup.
Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. Try to avoid drinking coffee at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime, even if you feel tired. “Drinking more coffee in the late afternoon and evening can affect your sleep at night,” says Drerup. She also advises that you avoid alcohol at night. It may seem like a way to relax but it actually makes your sleep less restorative and causes sleep fragmentation (repetitive short interruptions of sleep), making you feel more tired.
Keep good sleep hygiene. “Just like you have dental hygiene to keep your teeth in the best shape, you should also practice good sleep hygiene,” says Drerup. This includes avoiding heavy workouts before bed; putting your phone, computer or tablet away; and turning off the television and picking up a non-suspenseful book instead. Also, try to stay consistent with how much sleep you get each night and only use the bed for sleeping.