How To Reset Your Internal Clock
March 09, 2022
Daylight Saving Time
Daylight Saving Time (DST) is something many of us dread. Taking place between March and November, DST is the practice of moving our clocks forward an hour in the spring to take advantage of that extra bit of daylight from spring to fall. It may sound harmless, but setting our clocks forward means many of us lose an hour of sleep, and, for all of us, our circadian rhythms get out of whack, which can have detrimental side effects.
Your Body’s Internal Clock
Your body operates on an internal clock called your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms follow a 24-hour cycle that controls our sleep-wake cycle and other essential functions. It’s mainly influenced by light, which is why DST can mess with our internal clocks. During the transition period, our bodies are telling us we should still be sleeping because it’s still dark outside while our clocks are telling us to wake up.
One study conducted by researchers in Germany and the United States explains the relationship between our circadian rhythms, the sun, and our clocks. We are surrounded by three different “clocks” or time frames: the body clock, the sun clock, and the social clock. The body clock is our circadian rhythm that signals to our bodies when to be asleep and when to be awake, the sun clock is based on the sun’s position in the sky, and the social clock is local time determined by policy and upheld by, well, clocks. Our body clock is biologically influenced by the sun clock, but the social clock often holds powerful sway on how we gauge time.
When DST happens, it changes the social clock, which forces us to try to change our circadian rhythms to match the socially constructed concept of time instead of the way our bodies naturally manage time. This forced change to our circadian rhythms can negatively impact our health in many ways.
DST and Health
Daylight Saving Time impacts our health in more ways than you may realize. In a study that came out in 2014, researchers found that “the Monday following springtime changes was associated with a 24% increase in daily [acute myocardial infarction (heart attacks)].” Another study found that fatal motor vehicle accidents increased by 6% immediately after the springtime change and waned in the week after. Other impacts on health include increased accidents and emergency visits, more patient safety-related incidents, and more.
Prepare for the Time Change
Luckily, we have some ways for you to adjust to DST to help you avoid these negative health effects.
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP: Before DST even happens, make sure you get enough sleep leading up to it. That way you won’t be sleep deprived going into Daylight Saving Time, which can make you more sleep deprived.
- ADJUST YOUR BEDTIME: In the week or so before Daylight Saving Time, start going to bed just a few minutes earlier every night to help your body gradually adjust to the time change.
- PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE: Good sleep hygiene means you have a bedroom environment and daily routine that promotes sleep. Sleep hygiene can signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. You can improve your sleep hygiene by getting comfortable with a sleep system and a weighted blanket.
- ALTER YOUR DINNER TIME: Just like adjusting your bedtime, start having dinner a few minutes earlier every day leading up to DST. Doing so lets your body know that you intend on going to bed earlier.
- GET SOME DAYLIGHT: As mentioned earlier, our circadian rhythms are greatly influenced by the sun, so go outside the morning after DST and get some sunlight to help your body adjust.
- NAP IN MODERATION: If you find that you’re still tired once DST hits, take a short nap. Naps that are 10-20 minutes are great for getting that little boost of energy you need in the afternoon.
This year, take control of your sleep and reset your internal clock so you have a seamless transition into Daylight Saving Time.