Daylight saving time can disrupt healthy sleep more than jet lag, experts say

Millions of Americans will gain an extra hour of sleep early Sunday morning as daylight saving time comes to an end. 

As much as the idea of getting an extended sleep sounds like a blessing, experts say that changing the clocks twice a year can come with negative health effects. 

Research suggests bi-annual time changes often disrupt sleeping routines leading to health consequences, according to a Harvard Health report published earlier this year. The report added that losing an hour of sleep in the spring is more disruptive to the body’s circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle regulating sleep, mood, appetite and other key functions. 

Many sleep experts are proponents for ending daylight-saving shifts due to the adverse effects it has on people, according to Chris Mosunic, a clinical psychologist and Chief Clinical Officer for sleep meditation app Calm.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re going forward or going back. When you disrupt the sleep cycle what ends up happening is your brain is just not going to be functioning at nearly as high a level as it could be,” Mosunic told USA TODAY. 

When the time changes, Mosunic said people tend to lose two to three hours of sleep over the course of a month. 

Daylight saving shift is more disruptive than jet lag

The time changes that occur twice a year are more likely to affect someone’s sleep than traveling between time zones, according to Mosunic. 

He said the time someone processes the shift while driving or flying to a different time zone actually helps them acclimate overall making jet lag less disruptive. He advises those preparing for daylight savings to expose themselves to sunlight so their pineal gland in the brain can better prepare. 

“In an instant you just lost an hour or you just gained an hour, your brain can’t adjust to something like that. It doesn’t do it overnight,” Mosuni said. “Just give yourself as much time as possible to be able to prepare for a time shift. That’s what works in jetlag. That’s what works with daylight saving time.” 

Efforts to end Daylight Savings have failed to pass 

In the past years, Congress has discussed no longer requiring Americans to change their clocks twice a year.

In 2022, the U.S. The Senate unanimously approved the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time permanent, but the bill failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives and was not signed into law by President Joe Biden.

A 2023 version of the act remains idle in Congress as well.

Hawaii and Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Nation) are the only two U.S. states that do not observe daylight saving time. U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands also maintain a consistent time throughout the year. 

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Tips on how to get consistent sound sleep

Juli Galloway, Vice President Global Benefits at AT&T, said they offer their employees multiple services including a sleeping coach to help them adjust to the time shift. The company also analyzed research on sleep through a third-party vendor to provide useful tips and resources. They found that sleep impacts the physical, emotional, social and financial well being of workers. 

Below are a few tips on how to get consistent sound sleep:

Reverse Alarm Strategy – Set an alarm toward bed time that reminds you to wind down by limiting screen time use and putting calming music on. 

Temperature Paradox – Soaking your feet into warm water close to bedtime can help get your body to its natural clock to start to wind down. 

Limit intense activity – Avoid being physically active, listening to loud music or watching an action movie as they can make it difficult to wind down. 

Speak to a sleep coach – Speaking to a sleep or accessing sleep sources through a platform like Nox Health or the National Sleep Foundation can provide the tips to maintaining a healthy sleep routine.