March 11, 2018, Daylight Savings Time begins, and millions of people will lose an hour of sleep.
When making the jump forward into Daylight Savings Time, people lose an hour of sleep. The loss of an hour may seem insignificant. However, it does affect the circadian rhythms and hormone cycles for a week causing lethargy, has the potential to worsen sleep and lowering the functions of the immune system.
According to research the switch to Daylight Savings Time increases difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep up to a week after the transition. A study conducted in 2008, also found an increase in the body’s fight-or-flight response and a decrease in the rest-and-digest mode. Meaning, the first few days may leave people feeling “groggy and jet-lagged” with a slight decrease in immune system function. This makes people more likely to catch the flu from people around them after changing the clock ahead.
There are small adjustments that can be made to combat the affects of Daylight Saving Time.
1. No Caffeine After Noon
Caffeine increases lighter sleep and the instances of waking after falling asleep. Cutting back the caffeine intake can be helpful overall, but at least cut out the coffee and soft drinks after noontime for a few days before the clock changes.
2. Bedtime Meditation
Counter the increased fight-or-flight response by adding a 30-minute meditation before bed. This will help the body and mind wind down by calming the nervous system. Test out brief meditation ideas for a few days before Daylight Saving Time to aid in falling asleep faster. Try this: Sit still and without forcing the breath, bring a gentle awareness to the breathing. Slow the breath and let the thoughts and the stress from the day go. With each breath let go a little more until the mind is still.
3. Avoid Screens After Dinner
The blue light from electronic screens, smartphones and televisions can reduce the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that tells the brain it is time for bed. Therefore, the body and the brain remain in awake mode. To ensure the body creates enough melatonin avoid television, surfing the internet, and video games after dinner. Also, it is best to go to bed a little earlier for the few days before the time change. Read a book or use a device that is not backlit, such as a Kindle. Other ideas include listening to a podcast, soothing music, or go for a walk.
4. Drink Herbal Tea
Some like to enjoy a glass a wine after dinner but switch to herbal tea the week before Daylight Savings Time begins. The following ingredients help to calm the nervous system: catnip, passionflower, oatflower, hops, lemon balm, or valerian. These calming herbs can help the brain enter a state of rest and digest. This decreases the increased feeling of fight or flight caused by the time change.
Alcohol may help a person feel sleepy, but it actually causes lighter, fragmented sleep. It will disrupt the deep sleep needed the week after the time change.
5. Wake Up With Adaptogens Instead of Energy Drinks
To boost energy and mental clarity take a mild immune booster. Try adding adaptogenic mushrooms to the morning coffee. It may seem strange by there are physiological benefits to some fungi. A staff member at Fast Company tried mushroom coffee for a month, with a blend of 30 percent reishi and 70 percent cordyceps. The blend promotes homeostasis, helps the body perform better under stress, temporarily boosts the immune system, and supports adrenal glands.
Many herbal pharmacies stock adaptogenic mushroom tincture. It can also be found in pill form. When blended with coffee, they help to dull the caffeine crash and offer longer-lasting energy with out the potential risks found in other stimulants like energy drinks.
The adjustments can keep people energized and clear-headed despite losing an hour of sleep.
Legislatures Against the Time Change
If some legislators have their way, next year sleep will not be an issue. According to Senator Jim Honeyford doing away with Daylight Savings Time would benefit people by reducing the negative health impacts associated with the time change and hour loss of sleep.
There is research that indicates the sleep lost during Daylight Savings Time causes and increase in traffic accidents and a lowered performance in school and work. There is also research that concludes the time change disrupts natural circadian rhythms.
Honeyford said, “There are health problems generally within the week of switching times back and forth.” He introduced the bill this year that would have kept Washington on Pacific Standard Time all year round. However, constituents said they preferred the extra daylight hours after work and Honeyford pulled the bill.
There are some Washingtonians who would prefer to abolish Daylight Savings Time. In a recent poll conducted by PEMCO Insurance, 66 percent of residents in Washington and Oregon would vote to stay on standard time year-round.
A history professor at the University of Washington, Margaret O’Mara said that the time change originated in WWI as a wartime measure. Then the practice was stopped. “The first standardized daylight saving time during peacetime was implemented with the Uniform Act of 1966.” Before this act, states were free to decide to implement Daylight Saving Time on their own.
O’Mara states, “The idea of altering the clocks so that we had more daylight made more sense when we were an agrarian nation, particularly in rural areas.” But, O’Mara asserts that even then, the reasons for moving the clocks were incorrect.
In the 1970s Daylight Savings Time was touted as an energy-saving measure, that increased productivity and benefited farmers. There is little research that backs this idea.
A study conducted in 2008, by the U.S. Department of Energy showed that the time change reduced energy by only .03 percent a year.
The Monday after the time change there is evidence of decreased productivity. O’Mara says that with today’s technology, electricity, and air conditioning, the terms of productivity and energy saving do not compute with Daylight Savings Time.
Even farmers are against the time change. The cows do not care what time it is, they just want to be fed and milked.
Representative Joe Schmick believes that practice is outdated. He introduced a bill two years ago to ask Congress to adopt year-round daylight savings time, ending the clock changes. There is still research that proves that the more daylight people are exposed to, the healthier they will be.
Arizona a Hawaii have already abandoned Daylight Saving Time. Legislators in Florida approved a bill that will keep the state in the time change year-round.
Legislators in other states, including Oregon, California, and Idaho have proposed bills concerning Daylight Saving Time. Until the bills are approved, Americans will continue to bounce back and spring ahead semiannually.
By Jeanette Smith
Fast Company: 5 Sleep-Habit Tweaks To Help You Adjust To Daylight Savings Time
The Spokesman-Review: Washington legislators say it’s high time to get rid of daylight saving time
Image Courtesy of Peter Miller’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License