We’re getting ready to “spring forward” this weekend as we enter Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, when we’ll lose an hour of sleep.
Many of our clocks update themselves now -- or, at the worst, require a few button pushes to change. But our “body clock” is not that simple: The time change leaves our internal clock out of sync, along with all of the hormones and body functions that rely on it.
Skipping ahead an hour for Daylight Saving Time doesn’t just change the time, there’s also a change in our sleep and circadian rhythm, which has an effect on physical and mental health.
A 2020 study found that fatal traffic accidents increased by 6% in the U.S. during the shift to Daylight Saving Time.
“Studies have shown that there’s actually higher rates of heart attacks and strokes in the transition to Daylight Saving Time and the couple weeks after that,” said Caitlin Nicholson, a sports medicine doctor.
In fact, a University of Michigan study found that hospitals report a 24% spike in heart attack visits the Monday following that lost hour. Stroke rates were also 8% higher the first two days after the time change.
Other people just feel out of sync those first few days because our body clock cannot be instantly reset. To make springing forward easier, it’s a good idea to make the change in smaller steps.
“You can actually start shifting the times you go to bed and the times you wake up by about 15 or 20 minutes per night,” Dr. Nicholson said.
You can also make it a point to expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. That helps your circadian rhythm more closely align to that change in sleep.
Another great tip: Get some exercise in the morning or early afternoon. That timing also helps reset your body clock.
“I would avoid exercising at night or right before bed, as that can wake you up a little bit during the time that you’re going to want to be sleeping,” Dr. Nicholson said.
If you have small children or pets, try to start gradually shifting their sleep schedule, too. They’re event harder to reset, which makes it tougher for tired parents and pet parents.