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Spring Forward, Fall Back: How Daylight Savings Affects Your Health

As the seasons change, we often hear the familiar phrase “spring forward, fall back” to serve as a reminder to make better use of daylight by turning the clock ahead with warmer weather and back again with colder weather.

The twice-a-year desynchronization of our body’s internal clocks means we get an “extra hour” to sleep. But it also means a change to our circadian rhythm, which is our bodies natural internal clock that regulates various physiological processes, including sleep and wake cycles, hormone production, mental health and lack of productivity. These changes have also been linked to car accidents, obesity and depression.

Each time we set the clock backward or forward, we experience delays in circadian functions, which in turn lead to dysfunctions in metabolic, behavioral and cognitive abilities. Research shows that we feel the effects of time changes for days after we reset our clocks.

As you move the “little hand” back, make sure you are taking care of your body during this time shift.

Maintain a Routine. A common mistake is thinking that you can go to bed later when the nights get longer. This is a common mistake, and it only serves to throw off your rhythm even more. The key to good sleep is consistency. If possible, try to wake up at the same time on the weekends. This may make Monday mornings easier to bear.

Stay up. Really. The counterpoint to Standard Time Night Owls are the Too-Early Birds. With the sun sinking in the afternoon, you might be inclined to hit the sack earlier, too. Resist the urge to go to bed too early, as you may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night.

Turn off the (Blue) Light. Electronic screens use energy-efficient blue light, which is great – until you try to get to sleep. Blue wavelengths boost attention and tend to disrupt the body’s own circadian rhythm. It is best to avoid screens three to four hours before bed.

Want to learn more about how to make sleep health a priority? Reach out to a Hoag primary care physician at