Sleep Health

Daylight savings time is a sleep health crime


I don't think I'm alone when I say I daylight savings is not my favourite time of year. In fact, I'd bet that if it didn't need to happen, all of us would be much less tired and grumpy this coming Sunday morning.

Daylight savings is a serial sleep killer. I mean, I've just completed the ResMed Rest Up challenge and established a better sleep routine. Sleep and life were good up until I found out that I'd lose an hour's sleep this Sunday.

In Australia, if you're not from Queensland, Northern Territory or Western Australia, then let this blog serve as a public health warning. This Sunday morning, you'll need to put your clocks forward an hour and lose a precious hour of ZZzs.

Now before I talk about how daylight savings throws our sleep out of whack, let's look at why it was first created.

Despite the common myths, daylight savings was not started to benefit farmers. I don't think cows nor potatoes appreciate it either. And while adjusting our clocks forward in spring gives us more daylight, this isn't the real reason for it.

Daylight savings was first established as a wartime policy by the Germans during WWI to conserve power and fuel for the military effort. A few other countries decided it was a good idea too, but the jury is still out on whether it even saves energy or not. We're left stuck with a century-old decision, though.

Some say that although we lose an hour of sleep, we gain it back in autumn. This simply isn't true. I think it just means we get two doses of jet lag without travelling. It's exhausting whichever way you spin or season it.

What people forget is that this small change to our mechanical clocks is a massive hammer blow for our biological one. That's because our circadian rhythm depends on the body's production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and light is the primary cue for its production. The darker it is, the more the body produces. When daylight hours become longer, the body produces melatonin later in the day.

However, it's not as simple as a light switch. Once our circadian rhythm is affected, it can take up to a week to fix. This daylight savings, I know I won't lose just an hour of sleep, I may lose an hour every night until my body clock adjusts. If you're like me, this cannot happen!

So, how do we fight this invisible sleep enemy? As with any sudden change, one of the best ways to cope is to prepare for it. If daylight savings can trick us into sleeping later, we can sleep earlier before the time change happens to counter it. This will make it easier to wake up on Sunday.

Another good tip is to manually reset your body clock with morning light. An early walk on Sunday morning should do the job. At night, I recommend closing the blinds to make it darker inside than it is outside.

Some people love daylight savings. But for me, it's something that messes with my circadian rhythm like you wouldn't believe. After all, good sleep depends on a consistent routine all year round. All things considered, I know I'd rather have an extra hour of uninterrupted sleep than an extra hour of sunlight any time of the year.

Andrew Mun

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