Spring Forward, Fall Back — Daylight Savings Time and Sleep

November marks the end of Daylight Saving Time, the time in March when we need to put our clocks forward. Daylight Savings Time is often lauded for giving us an extra hour of sunshine at the end of the day, which is very welcome after a long, cold winter, but it also marks the beginning of trouble sleeping for many Americans.

We lose an hour of sleep when the clocks go forward in spring. For me, this lack of sleep causes daytime sleepiness for a few weeks before my body adjusts to waking up “an hour earlier.” For others, this can lead to the development of sleep disorders, and as the days get shorter in the fall, mood swings from seasonal depression can occur.

Lack of sleep can be even more detrimental to shift workers. As the author of our cover story reports, about 5% to 10% of people who work outside of the traditional 9 to 5 schedule, including healthcare workers, develop Shift Work Disorder (SWD). Shift work affects the body’s normal circadian rhythms and leads to excessive sleepiness. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, cognitive impairment, and even cancer.

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Primary care physicians play an important role in screening patients for sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and SWD. A detailed medical history, sleep log, and actigraphy can help doctors diagnose these conditions.

With Daylight Saving Time ending and shorter days and longer nights beginning, now is the time to get out those lightboxes, spend time outdoors whenever you can, prioritize sleep, and exercise to stay mentally and energetically fit throughout the winter to stay physically healthy. Consult a mental health or sleep medicine professional for help treating SWD, or seasonal affective disorder.

We say goodbye to autumn and welcome winter The Clinical Advisor wishes everyone a merry and healthy Christmas and New Year!

Nikki Kean, Director
The Clinical Advisor

From the November/December 2021 issue of Clinical Advisor

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