"Spring forward" time change can wreak havoc on circadian cycle

March 4, 2014 by Amy Blakely

This weekend, we turn our clocks forward an hour.

It may be a shift of only sixty minutes, but it's enough to disrupt the body's , which scientists call the circadian rhythm. The "spring forward" time change is often more difficult than the "fall back" change because it means an hour less shut-eye.

"If you are well-rested, even an hour change in your routine can leave you feeling temporarily sleep deprived. If you are already sleep-deprived, the one hour just compound the problem," said Theresa Lee, dean of UT's College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of psychology. Lee conducts research on sleep patterns over the lifecycle, and how sleep patterns and the need for sleep vary by age.

The body's internal clock regulates a number of critical biological processes, including hormone production, , and cell regeneration, during the course of a day. Any time shift in the sleep schedule—whether it results from time changes, travel between time zones, shift work, or changes in routine or medications—disrupts these chronobiological rhythms that influence the quality and duration of sleep.

Provided you have good sleep habits, it won't take too long to readjust to the daylight saving time change. In general, it takes about a day to adjust for each hour of time change.

Women ages twenty-five to fifty-five typically need 6.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep. Men typically need 6.3 to 8.1 hours of sleep.

To help minimize problems with this weekend's , Lee emphasizes these everyday tips for getting a good night's rest:

  • Have a fixed bedtime and wake-up time.
  • Avoid napping during the day.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine right before bed.
  • Avoid eating heavy, spicy, or sugary food before bed.
  • Get regular exercise—but not right before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
  • Avoid using your bedroom as a workroom.
  • Turn off electronics thirty to sixty minutes before bedtime.

Sleep is a critical part of our lives, and fatigue can be dangerous. Tiredness impacts reaction time, judgment, and vision. Sleep-deprived individuals have problems processing information. Their short-term memory is impaired. They perform tasks less well and are less vigilant and motivated. Moodiness and aggressive behavior increase.

Lee said research shows that eighteen hours of sustained wakefulness impairs performance similarly to a of .05 percent. A person who has gone without sleep for twenty-four hours can behave like someone with a .10 BAC. In Tennessee, a .08 BAC qualifies as drunken driving.

A person who's gotten four hours of sleep and then drinks one beer can feel—and act—as if they've consumed an entire six-pack of beer.

Lee said fatigue is believed to play a role in about half of all motor vehicle accidents.

Though much needed, sleep doesn't always come easy. Also, vary across the lifetime.

Youngsters and older folks tend to go to bed early and wake up early. In between, when our bodies are telling us to stay up later and later, society requires us to get up early to go to school or work.

High school and college are prime times when life's patterns don't match.

Teachers and faculty members, who tend to be older, are often alert and ready for class at 8:00 a.m.—and would like to be done and headed home by 6:00 p.m. Many students, though, would be more effective if their day began at 10:00 a.m. and classes extended into the evening, she said.

This might also help explain why the teen years can be so difficult.

"We are creating that leads to moodiness and aggressiveness," Lee said.

Explore further: As clocks turn back on sunday, think about better sleep

Related Stories

As clocks turn back on sunday, think about better sleep

November 1, 2013
(HealthDay)—Don't forget to turn your clock back an hour this weekend, and try some simple tips to get more restful sleep.

On March 11, spring forward without losing sleep

March 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- The return of daylight saving time and losing an hour of sleep causes most to cringe at the thought. According to Aparajitha Verma, M.D., medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Methodist ...

Spring forward with 10 sleep tips

March 6, 2013
Daylight savings time is March 10 – that's when clocks "spring forward" at 2 a.m. and you lose an hour of sleep. Most Americans are already sleep-deprived, which can impact your mood and performance in the workplace and ...

Children's sleep patterns tracked for the first time by researchers

December 17, 2013
Sleep patterns of children and how many hours may be optimal for their health and wellbeing has been tracked and recorded for the first time by researchers at the Institute.

Consistent bed time and wake time can mean healthier weight

November 14, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Prior research has shown not getting enough sleep can impact your weight, but new BYU research finds the consistency of your bed time and wake time can also influence body fat. 

Study in fruitflies strengthens connection among protein misfolding, sleep loss, and age

February 20, 2014
Pulling an "all-nighter" before a big test is practically a rite of passage in college. Usually, it's no problem: You stay up all night, take the test, and then crash, rapidly catching up on lost sleep. But as we age, sleep ...

Recommended for you

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

One in five patients report discrimination in health care

December 14, 2017
Almost one in five older patients with a chronic disease reported experiencing health care discrimination of one type or another in a large national survey that asked about their daily experiences of discrimination between ...

Your pets can't put your aging on 'paws'

December 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—In a finding that's sure to ruffle some fur and feathers, scientists report that having a pet doesn't fend off age-related declines in physical or mental health.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.