Time Changes: When They Occur And How They Affect Us

This small change can affect our circadian rhythms, causing us to feel tired, insomnia, and sad. Spending time outdoors, taking short naps, and following good sleep hygiene can help us adjust.

The change to daylight saving time forces us to move our clocks forward one hour at the end of March. The changeover to winter (or standard) time takes place in November.

All time changes alter our natural 24-hour cycle since they modify our exposure to sunlight. The internal clock becomes out of sync with the new day-night schedule.

This can cause tiredness, discouragement, and sleep disturbances, as our circadian rhythms are not aligned with the natural cycles of light and dark.

How well we adapt to the new schedule depends on our own health, sleep habits, and lifestyle.

Winter and summer time change

Daylight saving time is the practice of moving the clock forward one hour between March and November. The period without daylight saving time (November to March) is known as standard time.

In the early hours of March 26, the clock will move forward one hour to make way for daylight saving time. At 02:00 hours it will become 03:00 hours. We will sleep one hour less and we can notice that.

Later, we’ll set our clocks back an hour for the start of daylight saving time, early on the first Sunday in November.

The idea behind daylight saving time is to conserve natural light, as spring and summer days tend to get darker later than late fall and winter days.

However, time changes can affect our biorhythms, that is, our internal clock that controls the wake-sleep cycle, appetite, and even mood.

How does the time change affect us?

Adjusting the clock one hour may not seem like a drastic change, but the American Sleep Foundation points out some problems that can occur during the transition between standard time and daylight saving time.

Fatigue. By “delaying” the sleep-wake cycle, you can feel tired in the morning and awake at night. This circadian misalignment is from not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

The University of Washington found that we slept 40 minutes less on the Monday after the March time change, compared to other nights of the year.

Mood swings. People are at increased risk for mood swings and traffic accidents.

Health problems. Circadian misalignment (or social jet lag ) can lead to health problems such as obesity, low mood, and cardiovascular disease.

Some experts advocate abandoning the time readjustment in favor of the same time for the whole year. They argue that standard time is more in line with human circadian rhythms and that this time would have health and safety benefits.

How to adapt to the time change

In the days and weeks leading up to time changes, we can prepare for the adjustment by following a few steps:

  1. Good sleep hygiene. Avoid consuming alcohol before going to bed and have a light and early dinner, at least an hour and a half before going to bed.
  2. Regular sleep routine. Set a time to go to bed and wake up every day, (also on weekends). Always try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
  3. Modify bedtime. Two or three days before the time change, get up 20 minutes earlier than usual. On the Saturday before the changeover, delay the alarm clock for another 20 minutes.
  4. Outdoor time. Spending time outdoors during the day suppresses melatonin production. This hormone will be released at night and will help us feel sleepy.
  5. Nap in moderation. Instead of adjusting the time on Sunday immediately after the time change, take a nap that afternoon. Of course, do not exceed 20 minutes.
  6. Avoid coffee. Wayne University (USA) found that caffeine consumed six hours before bedtime can disrupt the sleep cycle. Avoid drinking coffee in the afternoon.

In addition to this, exposing yourself to sunlight, exercising outdoors, and being in contact with nature will help us adapt to the new time more quickly. Remember that, for every hour of the time change, it takes about a day to adapt.

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