Easing into the switch over to Daylight Saving Time

Dr. Timothy Roux, a sleep medicine specialist at Benefis Health System
Posted at 10:40 AM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 12:40:29-05

GREAT FALLS - Daylight Saving Time returns at 2 a.m. on Sunday, and most Americans will lose one hour of sleep but gain an hour of evening light when clocks "spring forward" an hour.

For many people, the change no longer requires actually moving the hands on a clock - many electronic devices such as cell phones and "smart devices" automatically make the change.

Some people enjoy the twice-yearly ritual of tinkering with time, feeling that “springing forward” or “falling back” helps to usher in a more seasonal atmosphere.

Other people, however, don’t like the idea of trying to trick our bodies and our daily routines by adjusting the clocks.

“The expectation is between four and seven days after the time shift, people will struggle. Everybody does,” said Dr. Timothy Roux, a sleep medicine specialist at Benefis Health System.

Roux says the body’s 24-hour clock can be disturbed by what is known as a circadian misalignment. Things like international travel and the yearly ritual of springing forward are common culprits.

“People are already chronically sleep-deprived,” said Roux. “People should be getting around seven hours of sleep per night as adults, eight to ten hours a night as kids. When you shift it forward an hour, you’re now depriving yourself of an hour of sleep.”

Roux says data shows in the days after the time change, industrial and motor vehicle accidents as well as productivity all decrease. To avoid any potential sleep problems, he suggests a gradual shift in daily routines in the days leading up to the time change.

“Lunchtime is generally at the same time; dinner time is roughly at the same time,” said Roux. “If you can shift those forward by 15 or 20 minutes and shift your bedtime forward by 15 or 20 minutes for a couple or three days before the time shift occurs people will weather that much better.”

Roux says turning back the clock in the fall does not have near the health impacts of turning them ahead.

He shared the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s stance that the daylight-saving time concept should expire.

“It causes enough mayhem, I mean heart attack risk goes up, stroke risk goes up the day after,” said Roux. “It seems crazy only an hour would do that, but it will.”

Roux says anyone experiencing sleep issues for more than the usual four to seven days following the time change should consult a physician.