LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansans will spring forward Sunday as Daylight Saving Time returns, setting clocks forward an hour and bringing the morning in just a bit earlier.
Dr. Jason Williams, a sleep medicine specialist with Baptist Health Sleep Center, had some tips to help prepare for the change and the loss of an hour of sleep.
Q: Assuming Daylight Saving Time requires people to change their sleep schedule before the changeover day, when should they begin making these changes?
A: Making the “spring forward” is more difficult for most than the “fall back” time change, especially for those who suffer from chronic insomnia — defined as difficulty falling and staying asleep for more than 30 minutes on more nights than not for over six months.
Some people may not notice the change. For others, such as chronic insomniacs or those more susceptible to circadian rhythm fluctuations, a more gradual phase advancement would be better tolerated.
In preparation for “springing forward,” it would be best if people advanced their bedtime by 5 minutes, but no more than 15 minutes, for two weeks, but no faster than four nights, before the time change.
Q: Is there a formula for preparing for the DST changeover, like changing sleep by X minutes or hours per night?
A: No but taking 3 to 6 mg of melatonin two hours before the present bedtime may help with phase advancement. It can also help prevent people’s difficulty when abruptly falling asleep one hour earlier.
Q: If you have children, do you need to make larger early-to-bed and early-to-rise changes for them?
A: Children are quite susceptible to sleep deprivation, especially as adolescents, when their daily schedules and routines are jam-packed with activities. A similar phase advancement protocol by gradually moving bedtimes, and subsequent waketimes, earlier by 5 minutes over two weeks could be helpful for children.
Q: Can getting outside in the sun, or staying inside out of the sun, improve the ability to transition to DST?
A: Yes. The timing of bright light exposure can significantly alter a child’s and adult’s circadian rhythm. Bright light early in the morning upon awakening and avoidance of bright light in the late afternoon and evening can aid in the phase advancement that will occur in transitioning to DST.
Bright light exposure in the late afternoon and evening, however, can significantly delay a person’s sleep phase, which can exacerbate the transition to DST.
Q: Do people need to be mindful of a change in their performance as their body gets used to the time change?
A: Yes, and without preparation, a person may have difficulty initiating sleep and have morning sleepiness and cognitive impairment for a few days until their circadian rhythm adjusts to DST.
Q: More of a year-round question, but how much sleep should people get per night at the minimum?
A: This can vary based on if someone has chronic insomnia or if someone has pathological hypersomnia. In addition, some people are “short sleepers” who can get by without a drop in psychomotor vigilance when they obtain less than 6-7 hours of sleep per night. For those without chronic or hypersomnia and who are not “short sleepers,” the minimum amount of sleep required can vary for each person.