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End of daylight saving time negatively affects sleep; here’s what you can do to mitigate it

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — This Saturday not only marks Halloween, but it marks the end of daylight saving time.

But while the clocks may get pushed back an hour, that doesn’t necessarily translate into sleep gain. In fact, the twice-a-year time change takes a toll on our bodies leaving people tired and sluggish in the days and even weeks after the time shift. 

News 8 spoke with Dr. Daren Beam, a physician at Eskenazi Health, about what we can do to mitigate the effects of the time change. 

Gillis: We’re talking about this weekend when our clocks will fall behind … daylight saving time ends. We want to get to the bottom of this. First, why do we have daylight saving time?

Beam: It was introduced back in the late 19th century as an effort to have more time in the fields for the people who were farmers. So, it’s more a historical context as to why we have daylight saving time.

Gillis: And it sort of messes with our … alters our sleep. A lot of people have trouble during these times when we have the clocks spring ahead or fall behind. What effect does this have on our sleep cycle?

Beam: Well, we naturally have a circadian rhythm, or a sleep cycle, that we always have. And that is based on a 24-hour clock that is internal to us naturally. So, when you shift any of these time frames it makes it more difficult to go to sleep and more difficult to get up. Although this is only one hour of sleep.

Gillis: And this one hour can have this effect? Just this one hour?

Beam: Well, it can make it more challenging, especially for bedtime for kids as we’re coming into this holiday weekend with Halloween. Things such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol — all of which usually occur on Halloween — can mess with your sleep cycle and combine that with a change in the time can definitely interrupt the sleep cycle. 

Gillis: There’s also this interesting association between an increase in heart attacks during this change in time, whether we’re springing ahead or falling behind. Is that just a spurious correlation or is there something to that?

Beam: I think it’s just a spurious correlation. It’s one of those things we can just  ironically find out at this time.

Gillis: Some docs are saying to just abolish this altogether citing there are numerous health reasons, the disruption is just too much. What are your thoughts on that?

Beam: Well, I think that would be up to the lawmakers whether to decide on whether to abolish daylight saving time or not. I can say as a physician there are things you can do to help your sleep cycle and to be able to adjust it to a proper, normal time.

Gillis: Please, give us your tips. 

Beam: Well, one … you want to be in a dark room. You want it to be quiet. A good temperature is somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees and you want to try to keep the same routine every time. With the daylight savings time ending, try not to nap, try not to eat late and like I said earlier … caffeine, alcohol and sugar late at night can really disrupt your sleep cycle.

Gillis: I know a lot of people have a lot of trouble the week that follows this … feeling tired, sluggish. So, you’re saying you can set yourself up and prepare yourself for this resetting of the clock before it happens. 

Beam: Exactly. If you go ahead and have a normal routine, you can adjust that for this one hour. You shouldn’t need to have to take supplements or anything over the counter or even prescription medicines just for one hour of time. But if you adjust your schedule so that you have the same routine and just move it one hour then you should be able to have a normal sleep pattern and you need to do that for the kids as well.

Gillis: Yes, for the kids as well. Let’s say, as an adult, you don’t have a sleep routine right now. Should we get one?

Beam: Yes. Everyone should have a good sleep routine. Sleep is one of the most important things for our body. It resets our brain. And it’s for our bodies to be healthy. It’s been shown the better sleep you have, the better health you have. So, if you don’t have a sleep routine yet, try to get one.

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Instagram @reportergillis and Facebook @DrMaryGillis.