Springing forward into daylight saving time can take a few days’ adjustment

Light, staying on schedule are key

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

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Lingering effects of a switch to daylight saving time Sunday may mean you’re feeling a little extra sleepy today.

But, as long as you’re not chronically sleep deprived, your body should bounce back from springing forward an hour within a day or two, according to sleep experts.

“It’s kind of like traveling … east into the next time zone,” said Dr. Marlene Dietrich, a neurologist and medical director of PeaceHealth Medical Group Sleep Center in Vancouver. “Theoretically, it should only take about a day per time zone to adjust.”

For many people, though, the body needs a couple of days to adjust, she said.

“People usually have a little more difficulty,” Dietrich said.

That means people may feel a little more groggy in the morning and have a tougher time concentrating and focusing at work or school, she said. To combat that, Dietrich suggests turning on bright lights first thing in the morning until the internal body clock adjusts.

“It makes people more alert when they’re exposed to bright light,” she said.

Teens ‘worst hit’

Some people are affected more by the time change than others, said Dr. Poh Leng, a pulmonologist specializing in sleep disorders at Legacy Medical Group-Sleep Medicine and Sleep Lab in Salmon Creek.

Those who have the greatest difficulty adjusting are those who typically sleep in and stay up late on weekends, specifically teenagers, Leng said. When Monday rolls around, they’re getting up one hour earlier, and that could mean they lose some rapid eye movement sleep, which affects memory and learning, he said.

“The teenage groups are the worst hit with the change,” Leng said.

People who work graveyard shifts may also be impacted more than others, he said. But if they stick to their routine that allows them to sleep during the day, the effects shouldn’t be too severe, Leng said.

Everyone can benefit from keeping good habits that prepare the body for sleep, he said. Those habits include a disciplined sleep schedule (bedtime and wake-up time), avoiding distractions right before bed, exercising four hours before bed and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, Leng said.

Losing an hour affects the body more than gaining an hour when daylight saving time ends in the fall, Dietrich said. But, after a few days of feeling out of sync, the body should adjust to the time change, she said.

“People can usually compensate with a little sleep deprivation for a few days,” Dietrich said.