A Message From the MCPS Medical Officer: Daylight Saving Time

by Patrick Herron

”This weekend marks the end of Daylight Saving Time, which begins in March, and ends the first Sunday of November. This means clocks will roll back one hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 6. It can feel great to have an extra hour of sleep, when we “fall back” instead of “spring forward”.  However, most sleep experts are not fans of this change, as even small disruptions to routines can cause problems with sleep. It can take one to two weeks for the body to get used to a new routine, so give your body and mind time to gradually adjust.

Many of us are already working on sleep health and will need to anticipate this additional challenge. Work, school and lifestyle changes during the pandemic created challenges for regular health routines that continue to affect many people. For teens and parents of young children, unique factors influencing sleep and self care make it especially important to have healthy sleep habits.

What are Healthy Sleep Habits?
Sleep is not just about getting enough hours of rest, though this is still important. Here are some tips that will help make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep and have good quality sleep.

  • Keep a regular schedule that does not vary much during the week and on weekends.
  • Create a bedtime routine that helps your body unwind and know it is time to prepare for sleep.
  • Avoid using electronics before bedtime, and for those of age, alcohol or caffeine later in the day. Stimulation from electronics or caffeine can disrupt sleep onset, and alcohol can cause problems later in the sleep cycle.
  • Follow a regular schedule for exercise and eat healthy meals to help with your sleep. Keep in mind that eating a heavy meal before bedtime can reduce sleep quality.
  • Light exposure plays a strong role in your body’s internal sleep cycle. Make sure the room lights are dimmed for sleep (or use a sleep mask), and enjoy some natural sunlight as soon as you wake up.

How can I adjust my sleep schedule for the time change?

  • For younger children or people with established sleep routines, the time change may cause problems with waking up too early.
    • Before the time change, make a small shift to move dinner and bedtime later. If you or your child sleeps from 9 p.m.- 6 a.m., shift the schedule from 9:30 p.m. -6:30 a.m. for three days before the time change, then go back to 9 p.m.-6 a.m.
    • To shift a schedule after the time change, adjust to an earlier clock time starting Sunday night. Shift to 8:30 p.m.- 5:30 a.m. for three  days if starting after the time change, then shift back to 9 p.m. – 6 a.m.
  • For people who could already use more sleep, this weekend is a good opportunity to reset your internal clock.
    • Set your clock back one hour when you go to bed on Saturday, and keep to your normal wake up time on Sunday. Starting Sunday evening, remember to shift your bedtime up to an hour earlier. If bedtime was around 11:30 p.m., your body will expect to go to sleep around 10:30 p.m. after the time change.  This will be the hard part for busy people, but it takes advantage of your body’s established bedtime while allowing for a longer sleep period.

So, enjoy that additional hour this weekend and some fresh autumn air!  It will be darker and cooler earlier, so be mindful of evening travel and don’t forget your coat.

Patricia Kapunan, M.D., M.P.H.
MCPS Medical Officer

For  more information, check out these resources about Sleep Hygiene and other important Sleep Health Topics. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers specific resources about sleep and teenagers, including the #SleepRechargesYou campaign for teens, with educator resources.”


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