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Montana Sleep specialist breaks down impact of Daylight Saving Time

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Posted at 10:38 AM, Mar 10, 2023

BOZEMAN - We are a couple of days away from losing an hour of sleep with Daylight Saving Time coming early Sunday morning.

Can one hour really make that much of a difference for your sleep and your life? MTN's Donna Kelley talked to a sleep specialist and he says it can.

"Some people live with a very tight balance in terms of their health, and for them, one hour is enough to kind of throw them off balance," said Dr. Rodolfo Soca, director of the sleep medicine clinic and lab at Bozeman Health.

"A lot of people barely get any sleep. They're tired, they're running unlimited hours, they may have two jobs, and that extra hour that they lose might be there a little bit of sleepiness and alertness that puts them at risk for a car accident. We see an increase in car accidents on Monday and Tuesday after the change. In time, it also affects their heart," said Dr. Rodolfo Soca.

Northwestern Medicine from Northwestern University provides these statistics from research for the week after we change: 24% higher risk of heart attacks, 6% spike in fatal car accidents, stroke rate increases of 8%, and mental health and cognitive issues including an 11% spike in depressive episodes.

What should people do?

"Try to bank some time on the two to three days following the time change if you have the option to. Let's say, be flexible at your start times at work or at school that Monday and Tuesday. Just allow for maybe things to be a little bit more delayed. A half an hour on Monday then half an hour on Tuesday. Don’t do the whole one-hour change one day. Don't make things worse at the beginning end of the sleep period. That Saturday night, try not to push things too much and go to bed at 2 or 3 AM. That Saturday night, try to go to bed a little bit earlier," said Dr. Rodolfo Soca.

How long does it take people to adjust on average? By the end of the week should things be better?

"By Wednesday most people have adapted. If you don't sleep well, the type of food that you crave changes. We might see in the days after daylight saving time a little bit of an increase in food that is fatty that is richer in carbohydrates," said Dr. Rodolfo Soca.

Should we just knock it off and just either do daylight saving or standard time without the time change?

"Sleep doctors usually don't like playing with that internal clock. We don't think it's a good idea to move a lot. My family is originally from a country that moved permanently to a saving time around 70 years ago. Spain moved out of their synchrony with their time and it didn't work. Slowly and gradually the country moved back. If you think about modern Spaniards, we go to bed late and we have dinner late. They thought they could just change the clock. What happened is eventually people follow the sun no matter what," said Dr. Rodolfo Soca.