Sleep Disorders

Updated 27 March 2015

Always sleepy after change to 'daylight saving'?

A doctor offers tips to make losing sleep easier on mind and body for people who live in countries where there is 'daylight saving' during the summer months.


You lost an hour's sleep when the clocks sprang ahead to "summertime". But there are a number of things you can do to cope with the switch to daylight saving time, a sleep expert says.

Impact on body clock

"It's well known that a small shift in time can have a large impact on our body clock and our health, and the time change causes sleepiness and fatigue. For a young, healthy individual, a one hour difference shouldn't make that much impact," said Dr. Yosef Krespi.

He is director of the Centre for Sleep Disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Read: Good bedtime habits and rules help kids sleep better

"But the older or younger you are, the more significant the impact. Individuals with pre-existing sleep conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnoea will have an even more difficult time adjusting," he said in a hospital news release.

Also, research has found that heart attacks, traffic crashes, and workplace accidents increase just after the switch to daylight saving time.

Circadian rhythm

"The impacts of daylight saving time are likely related to our body's internal circadian rhythm, the molecular cycles that regulate when we feel awake and when we feel sleepy," Krespi said.

"Light dictates the amount of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin that our bodies will produce. Transitions associated with the start and end of daylight saving time disturb sleep patterns, and anytime we lose sleep, it can result in a slowdown in performance, concentration and memory," he explained.

Read: Is your cat affecting your sleep?

Krespi offers the following suggestions:

  • Adults should wake up 15 minutes earlier than normal on each of the several days before the time change and avoid napping over the weekend. On Saturday, do some exercise around midday instead of later in the day, because exercise helps advance our body clocks.
  • If possible, spend at least an hour outside in sunlight on Sunday to help your body clock adjust to the time change. Be sure to follow good sleep habits, including limiting heavy eating, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and not doing any complicated tasks – such as computer or tablet use – for at least an hour before bedtime.
  • For children, cut infants' and toddler's nap times by about one-third over the weekend to prepare them for a bedtime that might otherwise feel too early. If young children go to bed late because of the time change, let them get their normal amount of sleep in the morning.
  • If you can, get outside with your children for an hour on Sunday to help their body clocks advance.

Read More:

Screen time may damage teens' sleep

Could a bad night's sleep make you eat more fatty foods?

Not all kids need to nap during the day

Image: Little girl with teddy from Shutterstock

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    Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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