Feeling Groggy After Daylight Saving Time? You're Not Alone.

National Sleep Awareness Week is March 10–16, 2019. This annual event begins on the day that we set our clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Saving Time — a day when most Americans lose an hour of sleep.

Sleepy woman at her desk, yawning

There's a lot of talk these days about eliminating Daylight Saving Time (DST). Some states adopted DST as early as 1918, though it wasn't until 1966 that Congress passed the Uniform Time Act to make time consistent, and less confusing when it came to things like train schedules and TV programing. (It's still a little confusing, as Hawaii, most of the state of Arizona and some U.S. territories still don't spring forward.)

Why do we have DST in the first place? A common belief is that it was instituted to give farmers an extra hour of sunlight during months when they had the most work. But in fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the purpose was to save energy. Of course, many experts today believe that with increased prevalence of air conditioning, DST doesn't save energy at all — maybe the opposite!
Whatever the reasons and history, DST is with us for now, a day when we fiddle with all our clocks, try to remember how to change the time on our microwave, and perhaps feel blessed that we don't have to deal with reprogramming a VCR clock any more!
Many people report feeling pretty groggy on the days after DST begins. Studies have shown a rise in automobile accidents, heart attacks and atrial fibrillation (AFib) for several days after the transition. Our work might suffer, too. A Penn State University study showed that on the Monday after the switch, employees are less productive and are "less likely to self-regulate their behavior and more inclined to spend time 'cyberloafing,' surfing the internet for personal pursuits while on the clock."
Dr. Praveen Rudraraju, an expert from the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., offered some specific tips for coping with the loss of an hour's sleep when DST begins:
  • In the days leading up to Daylight Saving Time, go to bed 5–10 minutes earlier every 2–3 days.
  • Get up 5–10 minutes earlier every 2–3 days in the same period.
  • Exercise 30–40 minutes in bright light before 5 p.m. on those days.
If you're experiencing sleep problems at other times, it's important to seek help. Untreated sleep disorders can impact our health in many ways, raising our risk of obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, dementia and depression. And as we grow older, we're more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances, which can quickly reduce our health and independence.
How much sleep do we need? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says adults of every age, including seniors, need at least seven hours per night.

On the day after Daylight Saving Time takes effect and every day of the year, follow these 10 tips to improve sleep quality:
  1. Manage arthritis, gastric reflux and other health conditions that cause discomfort during the night.
  2. Follow a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up the same time each day.
  3. Improve the sleep environment of the bedroom by reducing light and noise.
  4. Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature (between 60 and 67 is ideal).
  5. Leave smartphones and other light-emitting electronic devices in the other room — preferably turned off entirely.
  6. Increase physical activity during the day, then settle down close to bedtime.
  7. Ask the doctor or pharmacist to review medications, both prescription and over the counter.
  8. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon, or entirely.
  9. Avoid alcohol in the evening, or entirely.
  10. Avoid heavy meals in the evening.
The first step is to make sleep a priority in your life. A 2018 poll from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that adults in the U.S. named sleep as a lower priority than fitness and nutrition — and for that matter, their jobs and hobbies! However, the NSF reminds us, poor-quality sleep makes us less likely to exercise, more likely to eat unhealthy foods, less effective at our jobs, and less able to enjoy our hobbies during leisure hours.

Family caregivers also often experience sleep disturbances, especially if their loved one is living with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder. If this is the case, talk to your loved one's doctor. There are ways to improve the sleep of a person with dementia. Respite care from other family members or professional in-home care also allow family caregivers to get a good night's sleep.

Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned providers of in home care services.