Daylight Saving Time Ended: Here’s How to Adjust to the Change
The end of daylight saving time and an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning certainly sounds good, but that may be because it’s too good to be true.
Experts say that instead of “gaining an hour of sleep,” we’re more likely to stay up later or not consider the importance of preparing ahead.
We may even notice changes to our moods and motivation.
People with seasonal mood disorders and sleep pattern problems may be particularly affected.
Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, is a New York City-based neuropsychologist and the director of Comprehend the Mind, a diagnostic and treatment center for neuropsychological, psychiatric, and educational difficulties.
She says the effects of ending daylight saving time are associated with an item in the retinas of our eyes called a ganglion cell that contains the photopigment melanopsin.
“When we are exposed to sunlight, melanopsin signals a pathway to cells in the hypothalamus specifically responsible for regulating our body’s biological functions,” Hafeez told Healthline.
“This process then triggers the pineal gland, which is in charge of melatonin secretion, which peaks at night and wears off during the day,” she said. “In simpler terms, the less light exposure we get, the more out of step we may feel.”
“Lack of sunlight suppresses the production of two important hormones, serotonin, and sleep-inducing melatonin, both of which play an important role in mood balance,” Hafeez said. “In other words, a person’s level of serotonin and melatonin decreases when there is less sunlight, which may lead to symptoms of depression.”
Allison Siebern, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist certified in behavioral sleep medicine and the head sleep science advisor at Proper, a holistic sleep company in New York City.
She explains that behaviorally, people know the extra hour is being built in, so they actually stay up later doing other things rather than allowing for a full night of sleep.
Siebern says a shift in the sleep cycle can also disrupt quality of sleep, which means that even though we are technically adding an hour by “turning the clocks back,” it doesn’t necessarily translate to everyone getting an extra hour of sleep.
“The shift in time may translate to a little bit longer sleep duration but most likely not the full hour as the body remains physiologically entrained to the previous clock time,” she told Healthline.
For example, Siebern says, someone may still wake up around their wake time of 6 a.m. even though the clock now states it is 5 a.m.
“It can be hard to sleep against these signals even though the person has that extra hour by the external clock,” she said.
That’s why you still need to prepare yourself for the time change, even though experts say there’s less to adjust to when falling back than springing ahead.
Hafeez recommends taking the following necessary steps to adjust to the changing of the clocks:
- Scheduling more outside time. The more time spent outside in the daylight doing physical activity, the less sluggish you will feel once the clocks fall back. This is also a good way to help reduce the risk of a depressive episode.
- Not sleeping later on Sunday. On the Sunday morning of the clock change, people mistakenly opt to sleep in. Stick to the same wake-up time while getting to bed earlier.