In the spring, the transition is reversed, with the panic of waking up unexpectedly an hour late for whatever is scheduled that morning.
Daylight Saving Time starts on the second Sunday in March at 2 a.m. and ends on the first Sunday in November at 2 a.m in the United States. This year, that's March 14, when we set our clocks ahead one hour, through November 1, when we set them back one hour. And those of you in Europe aren't exempt, but you will have to wait two more weeks for March 28.
However, not everyone observes the tradition in the US — Hawaii and Arizona don't — nor do China and Japan. About 70 countries participate in this twice yearly time-changing exercise.
Daylight Saving Time is an enigma for many people, who wonder why we do it. Although it's intended to save energy and make better use of daylight, it's recognizable to most as something they might forget, which could cost them accidentally sleeping in or waking up less rested than they would have hoped.
Rather than struggle through the biannual switch, Dr. Shalini Paruthi advises people to prepare for the change, so it's not so disruptive to our sleep schedules.
Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep for good health, productivity and daytime alertness, said Paruthi, co-director of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield, Missouri.
"Even though the clock will shift, it doesn't mean that our sleep duration should shift," she said.
It's important to see the springtime change not as losing an hour of sleep but shifting your sleep habits to make up for that hour, she added.
Depending on when you realize Daylight Saving Time is coming, there are a few ways Paruthi suggests you prepare:
- About a week in advance: Start shifting the time you go to sleep and wake up by 10 minutes earlier each night and each morning.
- Three days in advance: Start shifting the time you go to sleep and wake up by 20 minutes earlier each night and morning.
- The night before: It's still not too late to get your seven hours of sleep — two options are to go to bed half an hour early and sleep in half an hour or go to bed an hour early.
It's not just about good sleep. According to one 2020 study
, the risk of fatal traffic accidents increases by 6% during the transition in spring from Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine notes that
"accumulated evidence indicates that the acute transition from standard time to daylight saving time incurs significant public health and safety risks."
The risks the group cites include adverse cardiovascular events — like increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity, myocardial infarction, stroke and hospital admissions due to the occurrence of acute atrial fibrillation — mood disorders and circadian misalignment.
Because of this, the academy released a position statement
in August calling for Daylight Saving Time to be canceled altogether by switching to permanent standard time — which is simply the year-round observation of standard time.
Paruthi also advises some other ways you can prepare for the switch — that can also become a regular practice, since these tips are also good for your overall sleep hygiene.
Just like keeping a consistent sleep schedule, eating habits and the timing of meals are important to help our internal clock have some time cues, Paruthi said.
If people eat at regular times every single day, it helps keep their internal clock on a good schedule, she said. "The other important thing — and I know we hear this all the time — is turning off our electronics, at least about a half an hour before bed."
The blue light from our screens can be overstimulating, triggering a state of alertness, and the content on our phones can be very engaging, Paruthi explained.
"Sometimes our brain doesn't have that time to be able to then process and transition and get ready for sleep," she said.
Finally, reserve your bed only for sleep and sex, Paruthi said. Doing other activities like watching TV or doing work can accidentally make your brain form the wrong habits, she said.
It was difficult for Paruthi to find a silver lining in Daylight Saving Time, though she said it can't hurt to all be reminded how important sleep is and that we need to pay attention to it.
"At least this sort of brings an awareness that we really do need to make sure we're getting enough sleep," she said.