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Daylight Saving Time: Are You Ready?

daylight savings time

When the clocks change in the spring and fall for daylight saving time (DST), you may lose an hour of sleep, putting you at risk for the effects of sleep loss if you're unprepared. For example:

  • On the Monday after moving clocks forward an hour, U.S. hospitals report a 24 percent jump in visits for heart attack visits, one study reports.
  • Another study estimates that car crashes caused by drivers drowsy after daylight saving time went into effect likely resulted in 30 deaths over a nine-year period from 2002-2011.

Fortunately, you can plan ahead for the time change, says Sally Ibrahim, MD, director of the Pediatric Sleep Lab at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's.

Keep regular sleep-wake hours

If possible, maintain the same sleep time on weekdays and weekends. This includes your wake-up time on weekends.

The weekend before the time change, avoid late nights and get up a bit earlier to prime your internal body clock to get ready for the week.

If you are sleepy after coming home from work or school, try to avoid a late afternoon nap and instead get to bed a bit earlier.

Some people may experience a jet lag-like feeling the first week of the time change. You may need a short 15- to 20-minute nap during the day to revitalize you. But be sure the nap is not close to bedtime.

Start an earlier routine

In the one to two weeks before the time change, start changing your habits to include earlier routines.

For example, instead of dinner at 6 p.m., start at 5:45 p.m. Wind down a bit sooner for bedtime. And most important, get up 10 to 15 minutes earlier to get your body used to the upcoming new time change. If you do this gradually, your will ease into the time change better without a more significant sleep loss.

Avoid stimulants

Avoid caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, chocolate and some medications, especially after noon to 1 p.m. so that you can fall asleep more easily. Smokers should avoid tobacco, which is a stimulant, close to bedtime.

Get exercise during the day, which helps you to sleep better at night. Try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime.

Bedtime routine and relaxation is not just for kids -- adults needs some wind down time too. Avoid overstimulating activities at bedtime that produce thoughts and alert the mind. Instead relax and slow things down before going to bed. Don’t go to bed until your body is fully relaxed and sleepier.

Get enough sleep

Be sure you are well rested before you drive. Caffeine may help in the morning to alert and reduce your lag in reaction time. Avoid driving, using machinery or other activities that may put you or others at risk.

If you have a sleep disorder, it is especially important to pay attention to sleep loss and how it may affect you. Talk with your physician about your sleep symptoms so you can get help.

Tips for your children

  • Adjust your child’s nap and bedtime in small, 10- to 15-minute increments to prepare for the time change. A gradual shift is easier for younger children and helps to get their bodies prepared to sleep at a different time.
  • Create a dark and quiet environment in your child's bedroom to prepare for bedtime. You may want to adjust dinner time slightly to help get things moving in the right direction.
  • Be mindful of what drinks your kids are consuming, as they may contain caffeine. It's best to read labels to make sure you know what they are drinking.
  • The weekend before the time change, avoid late nights and help your child to get up earlier to help their internal body clock get ready for the week.
  • After the time change, you may notice that your child may be more tired or irritable. Plan to have a regular sleep routine to help your child get to bed on time and wake up for school.
  • Remember to try to keep regular sleep patterns, even on the weekends and breaks. When we shift too far from the regular school sleep schedule on the weekends or during break, it's harder for kids to readjust when school's back in session. Sleep loss can affect kids’ behaviors, attention, mood, and school/sports performance.

Related Links

Restful sleep is critical for strong growth and development for infants, children and teenagers. The sleep medicine team at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s provide the care your child may need for a wide range of sleep disorders. Learn more about pediatric sleep medicine at Rainbow.

University Hospitals sleep specialists work hand-in-hand with our pulmonary specialists, heart doctors, ENTs, neurologists and psychologists to evaluate patients’ sleep struggles and restore them to good, solid rest. Learn more about the sleep disorders we treat at UH.