October 30, 2020

Setting the clock back an hour might not provide expected sleep boost

Madison, Wis. — With so much happening in the coming days, one thing may be easy to forget: Setting your clocks back an hour at 2am Sunday.

There is more to setting your clock back than the opportunity for an extra hour of sleep, according to Dr. Rachna Tiwari, assistant clinical professor of pulmonary and critical care, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and UW Health sleep specialist.

"While the extra hour of sleep sounds nice and adjusting sleep by one hour may not seem that drastic but there is little evidence of that extra sleep that night," she said. "Even if there is one, that extra gain won't counter the inadequate sleep many people get rest of the year."

An article published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews by Yvonne Harrison, concluded that even a small one-hour shift in the sleep cycle can affect sleep for up to a week, and earlier rise times suggest a net loss of sleep across the week.

"It could feel to some like a sense of jet lag and some can have fatigue," Tiwari said.

With the change of sleep time, many people may wake up earlier and may have troubling falling asleep leading to sleep loss, which in turn can have consequences in daily life, according to Tiwari, like an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents and a worsening of mood disorders.

People who tend to be short sleepers (sleeping less than seven hours a night) and early risers have the most trouble adjusting to the new schedule, she said.

"Because the time you go to bed is now an hour earlier than what you are used to, it can take a few days or weeks to get back into your normal rhythm," Tiwari said.

To help make the transition, it is important to maintain your pre-bedtime routines at the same times as normal. Here are few other tips Tiwari recommends:

  • The amount of sleep you need depends on your age, but 7 to 9 hours a night is recommended for most people.

  • Practice good sleep hygiene like shutting electronics like cell phone, tablets, computer, TV etc. an hour before bedtime, avoid caffeine at least four to six hours before bedtime and avoid alcohol/heavy meals before bedtime. Have a pre-sleep, wind-down routine, like a shower, quiet reading or listening to music in the hour before sleep is helpful.

  • Keep bedtimes and wake times consistent every day, even on the weekends.

  • To adjust for bedtime by going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier for few days then again 15 to 20 minutes before the actual time change. Adjusting 30 to 40 minutes earlier from usual bedtime will help adjust smoothly.

  • Spending more time outside in the evening time, or if it's too cold and you can't go out, using a light box that simulates outdoor light will help suppress melatonin and will also be helpful to adjust bedtime.

  • When you wake up after the time change at the correct time, resist the urge to sleep.

  • For kids, simplify their morning routine by organizing everything the night before, like packing backpacks, arranging clothes for next day and arranging materials for school.

"Good sleep is all about consistency and good habits," Tiwari said. "Though it may take a little time to adjust, if you are consistent you will be back to a healthy sleep pattern soon."