You Only Lose an Hour During Daylight Saving Time—So Why Does Your Body Feel Out of Whack?

This morning felt terrible, didn't it? Even if you went to sleep a little earlier and remembered to set an alarm, you awoke in darkness and felt hungover. Daylight saving time (DST) started on March 13. So, even though you technically lost the hour of sleep between Saturday and Sunday, the Monday after 'springing forward' can still hurt. But should one hour of lost sleep be this disruptive? Below, we break down a few reasons why your body feels so out of whack during daylight saving time.

Daylight savings time feels worse when you're caught by surprise

Be honest: You told yourself to go to bed early, but it was eleven when you climbed in bed—and, oops, it's actually midnight. If you're a parent, you know sleep schedule changes require planning to avoid disruption. Some doctors recommend parents change bedtime by fifteen minutes every night for the first few nights to accommodate DST sleep regressions.

As an adult, you could have done the same, but most of us do not do anything to change our habits before DST. In fact, many people forget time changes are happening until someone reminds them or they're accidentally late or early to work on Monday.

It takes some getting used to even when you prepare

Even if you did prepare for the clocks to steal an hour of your life, you might still feel cruddy today. Shelby Harris, PsyD, author of The Women's Guide to Overcoming Insomnia, previously told Well + Good, "Our biological clocks are so well set that even an hour's difference in light exposure can create changes in the body, making for greater sleepiness in the morning and insomnia at bedtime at the daylight savings change."

In short: You are a sensitive and precise machine, and your system does not like change. (Though there's evidence to indicate that it'll only take about a week to adjust.)

The sun is more important than you think—it just takes some getting used to

The purpose behind DST is to maximize the number of working hours spent in the sun, the idea being that your circadian rhythm and mental health are better when waking hours are sunny.

Lauren Hale, PhD, vice chair of the board for the National Sleep Foundation, previously told Well + Good, "light really tells your body that it's time to wake up. Then you'll be tired earlier in the evening." So spring forward should help you feel well... eventually.

Here's what you can do if you're struggling to adjust

Since it's too late to go back in time and adjust your bedtime or get one of those seasonal affective disorder wake-up lamps, you're going to have to get used to it.

What's nice is that, while this morning was awful, tonight is going to be light later, which should help your mood. Dr. Harris says that, right now, when the change is new, getting outside and enjoying some fresh air will help. Today is the two-year anniversary of COVID-19 lockdowns for many of us, and much of the world is back open for business. See some friends, enjoy some sunshine, and trust that in time your body will adjust to this somewhat torturous practice.

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