Ready for daylight saving time? Tips to improve your health and sleep as you spring forward

On Sunday, we set our clocks ahead one hour at 2 a.m. to officially begin daylight saving time.

Clocks might "spring forward," but often we don't feel a whole lot of spring in our step in the days after the time change.

A 2020 study estimates that the week after the time change, Americans experience an additional 150,000 adverse health events. It's about a 10% increase compared with other weeks. That study was published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine's PLOS (Public Library of Science) Computational Biology journal.

Some of the adverse health events were obvious: More tired people lead to more car accidents or injuries like a fall, or exhaustion might translate into more mental health or behavioral health crises.

Others were more hidden: more heart attacks and cardiovascular events; more incidents of complications from immune-related diseases such as colitis; more pregnancy complications and renal failure; elevated blood sugar in people with diabetes; and elevated blood pressure in people with hypertension.

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Ready for daylight saving time? Tips to improve your health and sleep as you spring forward

Why would one less hour of sleep matter to your health?

Let's think about what happens when you sleep. The body uses that time to reset itself. It lowers the heart rate, allowing for recovery time for the heart.

In the brain, it stores memories and monitors emotions.

In the muscles, it breaks down lactic acid and helps repair small tears.

Sleep helps the body regulate the metabolism and release hormones. It allows the body time to boost the immune system.

"When we spring forward, we disrupt a lot of this," said Dr. Stanley Wang, medical director at the Sleep Disorders Center at the Heart Hospital of Austin. "We're asking our body to start doing stuff an hour before it is ready."

While we might have changed the physical clock, we haven't adequately adjusted our internal body clock — those circadian rhythms — that tell us when it's time to wake up, eat and go to bed, Wang said.

How to prepare for daylight saving and get better sleep

Adjust your internal clock slowly. If you can, start slowly moving ahead your bedtime and your wake-up time in 15- or 20-minute increments rather than all at once. Luckily, it's spring break for many families, which might make doing this easier.

Expose your body to light in the morning. Rather than blackout curtains or pulling up the covers over your head when you don't want to get up, embrace the sunlight in the morning.

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