Experts say taking gradual action in advance of the upcoming time change is important, as the effects of switching to daylight saving time on your sleep cycle can have a serious impact on your health. (Courtesy photo)

Households across Southern California will soon “spring forward” by adjusting their clocks one hour ahead to usher in daylight saving time, which begins at 2 a.m., on Sunday, March 10.

This will result in sunlight lasting longer into the evening and sunrise occurring later in the morning resulting in more darkness.

Although the time change is welcomed by many who enjoy spending more time outdoors with an extra hour of daylight, experts say that this annual ritual has its disadvantages when it comes to your health. Most noticeable of all is the loss of one hour of sleep, which will leave many feeling tired and lethargic.

In order to minimize the impact on your body and sleep pattern, preparing in advance for the time change should help you better adjust to the upcoming time change, said Dr. Kendra Becker, a sleep medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

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Taking gradual action in advance is important, as the effects of switching to daylight saving time on your sleep cycle can have a serious impact on your health, she said. That’s why taking certain steps ahead of the time change to minimize the impact is so important.

“As we lose one hour of sleep, many of us will feel more tired,” Dr. Becker explained. “As such, this can have a negative impact on our ability to perform tasks, and research tells us that, although temporary, the time change can also increase your risk of heart attacks and car accidents. Additionally, sleep-deprived children can experience difficulties in school and potentially even have worsened behavior.”

Dr. Becker, who is the medical director of the Sleep Center at Kaiser Permanente San Bernardino, noted that our internal sleep cycle often normalizes within a few days or up to one week after daylight saving time starts.

To help you cope with the upcoming time change, Dr. Becker offered the following tips to adjust to the time change more efficiently and minimize any potential negative effects.

  1. Gradually adjust your sleep schedule. You should shift your bedtime and wake-up time a few days before the time change to help your body adjust.
  2. Create a bedtime routine. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine can help your body recognize when the time is right to wind down and prepare for sleep.
  3. Get plenty of sunlight. Get outside and soak up some sun, especially in the morning. By doing so, this will help your brain produce melatonin naturally and earlier in the evening, assisting in the adjustment of your biological clock.
  4. Practice good sleep hygiene. Avoid electronics, late snacks, caffeine, and alcohol before going to bed. These things can disrupt your sleep patterns, making it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

“There’s little doubt that losing an hour of sleep will be difficult for many in the beginning, but we can do something about it,” Dr. Becker said. “With the right attitude and taking the necessary steps, we can minimize the impact.”