UC HEALTH LINE: Catching Zzz's When the Time Changes
On Oct. 30, most people in the United States will change their clocks to standard time when they “fall back” one hour.
Even though this time change happens in the middle of the night—2 a.m. to be exact—experts agree that sleep cycles can still be disturbed.
Victoria Surdulescu, MD, sleep medicine expert in the University of Cincinnati (UC) Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, and director of the UC Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Center, says many people have a hard time adjusting to time changes.
“The ‘spring forward’ clock change in March is probably a bit more difficult to adjust to,” says Dr. Surdulescu. “But in the fall, most people think they’re ‘gaining an hour’ when they turn their clocks back, and really that’s not the case. With the light streaming in their windows even earlier in the morning, they will probably wake up even earlier.”
This, says Dr. Surdulescu, can lead to daytime sleepiness, which can pose a danger on the road and lead to lack of concentration at work or school.
“It’s recommended that people get at least eight hours of sleep at night in order to stay healthy and alert during the day,” says Dr. Surdulescu.
To adjust to the time change, Dr. Surdulescu recommends that you go to bed and wake up at the same time you normally would—especially the night the time changes.
She also advises that you create an environment conducive to sleep.
“Make sure your bedroom is dark,” says Dr. Surdulescu. “This sounds like common sense to many of us, but as the daylight hours change, we forget to adjust our blinds to account for increased morning light.”
The time change can be particularly tough on children. Dr. Surdulescu suggests that you start adjusting your child’s sleep schedule in advance of the time change to ease them into it—and turn off TVs and computers.
“Late-night work on computers can fool the body into thinking it’s not time for bed yet,” she adds. “And too many times people leave TVs on or computer screens lit in their bedrooms when they fall asleep, not realizing this light actually impacts the quality of sleep they’re getting.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America Poll, Americans average 6.8 hours of sleep on weeknights and 7.4 on weekends. The poll also estimates that three-quarters of America’s adults report a symptom of a sleep problem.
"UC Health Line” contains timely health information and is distributed every Tuesday by the UC Academic Health Center Public Relations and Communications Office.