Sunday. That’s the day to set your clock forward in 2018, and at 2 a.m. to be exact. So 2 a.m. becomes 3 a.m. as we “spring forward.”
That missing hour of sleep has a reputation for being tough for some people, but according to Dr. Amit Narula, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Carroll Hospital, that may be largely a matter of perception.
“Normally people who have good sleep habits to begin with and are otherwise healthy and take care of themselves, losing an hour of sleep isn’t really going to affect them,” he said. “They are not going to feel it much.”
That being said, young children and those who are already sleep deprived due to poor sleep hygiene may really noticethat missing hour of sleep from over the weekend on Monday morning, according to Narula, and there is some evidence that this does have a big impact on some people, if only for a short period of time.
“The number of car crashes actually increases in the springtime around the time of the time change, but that number reverts back to the average a few days later,” he said.
Whether it’s changing the clocks or traveling to a different time zone, disrupting the body’s circadian rhythm has similar effects, which physicians understand fairly well, according to Narula.
“The general rule of thumb, whether you are traveling from a different time zone or changing to Daylight Saving Time, is that with a change of one hour the body adapts to it in one day,” he said. “That is, for every hour change, the body takes one day to adapt to it.”
The best way to ensure that one day of adaption means being a little groggy versus being in a car accident? Make an effort to get some more sleep on Saturday.
“That night, try to go bed a little earlier,” Narula said, “A half hour, 45 minutes earlier in the night.”
And what about those protocols you might find floating around in some corner of the internet, or shared by social media contacts you vaguely recall connecting with at some point, that suggest going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night leading up to the time shift?
“There is no concrete medical evidence to support that, but anecdotally it is is something people can do,” Narula said. “It’s hard to change your bed time. If all else is equal and you have someone who sleeps well and feels good and you ask them to go to bed two hours earlier, they’re not going to be able to do it. You have to make small adjustments leading up to that change.”
Given the very transient negative effects of the upcoming time change, Narula suggests it might best be thought of as a time to reflect on good sleep hygiene generally. To get the best rest, he said, people should sleep in a cool, dark room, without TV or mobile devices or other screens, and aim for seven or eight hours of total sleep.
People looking to catch good Z’s and mitigate the shift to Daylight Saving Time also shouldn’t smoke and should avoid exercise or dinner right before bed, and caffeine within six hours before bed, according to Narula.