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In this Your Healthy Family, we're reminding you that this Sunday morning it’s time for a time change. At 2 a.m. our clocks shift back an hour as our society moves off Daylight Saving Time.
The problem for some people is that the sun will continue to rise and set at the same time and sunlight is one of the biggest drivers of our circadian rhythm. If the semi-annual time change never seems to bother you much you might find it hard to understand that even this time change, when we gain an hour of sleep can really mess with some people.
Dr. Katherine Green, MD, MS, is a sleep surgeon with UCHealth who tells me, “Some of our circadian rhythms are more or less flexible. Some of us can deal with (for example) changing a time zone or two, and not have a significant effect of something like jet lag. Whereas other people and their sleep schedule are thrown totally off.”
If you know your body clock falls into the “not dealing with time changes well” category, Dr. Green says you can make Sunday’s time shift easier - if you start now.
“The easiest thing for time changes, in general, is that if you know you're someone who is relatively sensitive to them, and honestly even if you're not - If you can do a time change gradually it is an easier shift for the body's natural clock. None of our circadian rhythms can actually jump by an hour in a day, it's just not how it works. Most of us can compensate for that hour change over the course of a week or two, and gradually settle in without there being too many noticeable effects.”
If you want to help your body make an easier transition to standard time Dr. Green says, “In this case on Sunday morning 2 a.m. will become 1 a.m., so if your bedtime is 10 p.m., next Sunday night it will feel like 11 p.m., but the clock will say 10 p.m. So, to gradually shift that time for your body you can start to pretend the clock is shifting by 20 minutes every few days by going to bed 20 minutes later. If possible as you shift your bedtime by 20 minutes, also shift your wake-up time 20 minutes later, but if you have work that can be more of a challenge.”
Finally, Dr. Green says with a chuckle try to enjoy the extra hour of sleep, but, “Anyone that's a parent doesn't get that extra hour, (laugh) that goes right out the window”.
In our next story, Dr. Green will explain more about the science of why even this time change, when we gain an hour of sleep is problematic for many.
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