Most of the United States shifts between standard and daylight saving time (DST) each year in an effort to “save” natural light. Clocks will get set one hour back on Sunday, Nov. 6, when the DST period ends. Although you may be excited about gaining another hour in your day, DST can wreak havoc on your physical and cognitive health for several days, weeks or even months.
The disruption of DST can negatively impact your health. Your internal clock regulates critical processes, including liver function and the immune system. Interruptions to the circadian rhythm, your body’s 24-hour biological cycle that regulates wake and sleep, can also impair your focus and judgment. For example, a study published in Current Biology found fatal U.S. traffic accidents increased by 6% in the week following DST. Fortunately, there are ways to increase your odds of a smooth DST transition.
While you may be tempted to use the extra hour to indulge in various activities, health experts recommend using that time for sleep. To help make the DST transition easier, consider going to bed 15-20 minutes early in the days beforehand to help your body get used to the difference. If you have specific health concerns, talk to your doctor.
Helping Your Body Adjust to the Time Change
If your state follows DST, you can take steps to make the transition easier. Leading up to and after the time change, consider these tips to protect your circadian rhythm:
- Exercise in the morning.
- Prioritize daylight exposure.
- Keep a regular sleep routine.
- Remove sleep disturbances.
Lastly, when was the last time you changed the batteries in your smoke detectors? Now is the perfect time to take care of this essential task as well – experts recommend replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors annually. And again, don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour on Sunday, November 6!