What You Should Know About Fall Daylight Saving Time
Why was Daylight Saving Time created? Myths explained, and tips to bounce back from the time change faster.
In fall months, even though falling back means we gain an extra hour of sleep, “we are on the cusp of cold and dark winter days, which don’t offer the same kind of accessibility and willingness for exercise and socializing, ” says Jennifer Wolkin, a clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in stress reduction and mental health. Rates of seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, and depression also climb during the fall, says Wolkin. Falling back due to DST means waking when it’s darker out, and could trigger or worsen some of these seasonal issues. The early darkness and chill can make it difficult for some to get up and start the day. Early risers may not be able to rise and shine as easily as they once did.
Scientifically speaking, we’re sleepier when it’s dark outside because of our circadian rhythms, our internal system that tells us when to wake and when to sleep. Almost every organism, according to the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, has a circadian rhythm of some type. For humans, our circadian rhythms are triggered by hormones and genetics, and external factors such as light and temperature.
“The impact of DST on sleep varies according to the latitude, with effects stronger at higher latitudes, and according to the individual “chronotype” of the person. A chronotype is the individual’s preference for earlier times (larks) or later times (owls),” said Dr. Eve Van Cauter, Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and member of the Sleep Number Scientific Advisory Council . “Owls love DST while larks generally prefer Standard Time (ST). During the first few days after the switch to DST in spring, when we ‘lose’ one hour of sleep, daytime sleepiness and negative mood are common and an increase in cardiovascular problems has been observed in multiple studies. The switch back to ST in the fall may correct these issues.”
How to Help Your Body Wake-Up & Get Out of Bed
People take advantage of the extra hour of sleep. According to Sleep Number research, SleepIQ® sleepers slept the longest the night of Daylight Saving Time in the fall (8H 27M) compared to usual (7H 45M). And, the nights after Daylight Saving Time in the fall were the earliest bedtimes and earliest wake up times of the year. *
Dr. Van Cauter adds, “For many people, the extra hour of sleep available for just one day when we switch from DST (often referred at as “summer” time) to Standard Time (ST; often referred to as “winter” time) is very welcome and associated with a feeling of well-being.” So, it’s a great time of year to adjust your bedtime routine & sleep schedule for better quality sleep. Some things to try:
Perhaps the biggest player in our circadian rhythms is light. Humans are biologically primed to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light out. Studies show the human body reacts to darkness by releasing melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. The fastest way to wake up on a dark morning is to trick your brain into thinking it’s not dark. Stand under the brightest light possible first thing in the morning. It will help reset your body clock. Some people use sunlight lamps and light boxes to help them wake up and beat back seasonal depression.
According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, dehydration can lead to moodiness and fatigue. So when you wake up groggy after a long night of sleep, that sandpapery feeling on your tongue could be the reason. Doctors recommend drinking anywhere from 9 to 13 cups of water throughout the day, according to the Mayo Clinic—and chugging one of those cups early in the morning helps boost metabolism, trigger adrenaline, and ultimately get you out of bed, as this Business Insider article notes. Cut back on water at least an hour before going to bed though, or your sleep will be interrupted by late-night bathroom breaks.
If you’ve ever had difficulty waking up on cold mornings, this won’t come as a surprise: Cold temperatures induce sleepiness, while hot temperatures prevent people from sleeping, according to a study in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews. Maintain a comfortable temperature in your bedroom. 65 to 67 degrees is ideal. Turning up the thermostat before bed or sleeping with extra layers might become uncomfortable and make staying asleep difficult. But drinking a hot beverage immediately upon waking is one effective way to boost your body temperature, says a study published in Acta Physiologica. Set your coffee timer in the morning for a wake-up call that’s warm and delicious.
Give your body a “period of adjustment” of about a week. Any health issues you notice because of the time change—sleep disruption, moodiness, poor work performance, cardiovascular problems—return to normal, says Wolkin. In the meantime, she encourages patients to take extra care of themselves, particularly in the fall. Regular exercise, talk therapy, and mood lamps can all help patients who struggle to adjust to the time change.
WHY DO WE FALL BACK?
Surprisingly, the history of Daylight Saving Time is steeped in myth. For example, DST was created to decrease energy costs, not to help farmers as many people believe. Around 70 countries spring forward and fall back, not just the U.S. The concept also has encountered significant backlash from economists and scientists.
Daylight Saving Time starts the second Monday of March and ends the first Sunday in November. It was first implemented as a wartime measure on March 31, 1918. The rationale was that encouraging civilians to rise with the sun would conserve fuel for the troops. Farmers overwhelmingly disapproved, saying the change disturbed when they went to market to sell their goods. Seven months later, the farm lobby successfully repealed the measure, but only for a short while.
“Daylight Saving Time has always been an effective retail-spending plan, and it has always been a bust as an energy-savings plan,” says Michael Downing, a lecturer at Tufts University and the author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. “This explains why the Chamber of Commerce was the first and most persistent lobby on behalf of the scheme.”
Also known as “War Time,” the measure was implemented again in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But even then not everyone practiced it. From 1945 to 1966, individual cities did what they wanted in terms of saving time, or not, leading to problems with freight shipments between the East Coast and the West Coast, to cite just one example. In response, in 1966 the Uniform Time Act of Congress was implemented, under which DST started the last Sunday in April and ended the last Sunday of October. Individual states could still opt out.
DST changed again following the 1973 oil embargo. In 1974 and 1975 “fast time” was eight months and later, 10 months. Government research showed that fast time saved the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil, according to Scientific American. Between 1987 and 2006, DST was extended about seven months annually. The current DST schedule was introduced under President George Bush and signed as the Energy Conservation Act of 2005. Implemented in 2007, it extended DST by four weeks.
WHY DO WE STILL DO DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME?
Here’s the official U.S. Department of Transportation stance:
- It saves energy. During Daylight Saving Time, the sun sets one hour later in the evenings, so changing the clocks reduces the need to use electricity for household lighting and appliances. People tend to spend more time outside in the evenings during DST, which also lowers electricity usage. In summer, most people wake after the sun has already risen, so they turn on fewer lights in their homes.
- It saves lives and prevents traffic injuries. During DST, more people travel to and from school and work, and complete errands during daylight.
- It reduces crime. During DST, more people conduct their affairs during daylight rather than at night, when more crime occurs.
Should Daylight Saving Time Be Permanent?
According to Dr. Van Cauter, permanent DST would mean most people, including children, would have to get up and be active well before dawn for many months of the year. “Exposure to morning bright light is important to avoid winter depression and therefore permanent DST is likely to increase the prevalence of winter depression and have adverse effects. Therefore, I believe permanent DST is not a good compromise. I am an owl and enjoy the long summer evenings and favor keeping the two yearly switches.”
The reasoning behind DST may not be as solid as many assume, but on the plus side, many welcome that extra hour of sleep. Snuggle into your Sleep Number 360 smart bed, look at your SleepIQ data for insights on how your body is transitioning the week after Daylight Saving Time, and follow the above ideas to help you rise and shine. After several nights of practice you’ll be feeling like your normal self again.
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds with SleepIQ® technology inside adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. SleepIQ technology tracks how well you sleep each night, giving you personal insights into your sleep so you’ll learn how life affects your sleep and how sleep affects your life. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.
*Based on SleepIQ® data from 1/1/18 to 12/31/18