Daylight saving time is March 8 and everyone is freaking out about what the hour of lost sleep will to do them. This is promoted, in part, by the inevitable pile-on of articles about how daylight saving time is harming our health by messing with our sleep. I am actually part of the problem. I’ve written my fair share of “how to survive the time change” stories, and I am sure you can find them with a quick Google search. I am here to admit that those lists were probably helpful 100 daylight saving times ago, but not really today.
Sure, losing sleep does impact your health over time. But let’s be real—daylight saving time is only one hour of lost sleep. You lose more sleep when you fly from the West Coast to East than you will on Sunday. And honestly, the majority of us have bigger sleep-related problems on our hands, like not getting enough sleep every other day of the year.
I asked Michael Grandner, an instructor at Penn Medicine’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, for his take: “A one-hour shift at daylight savings hardly deserves dire warnings,” he says (I knew it!). “For most people, it will be a minor inconvenience that they will adjust to in one to two days. Some people, especially those who are already trying to get by on too little sleep, may feel more of these effects and they might be at increased risk.”
So Grandner is a little more forgiving, adding that in a society that’s already low on sleep, a lost hour can mean impaired performance for people who are more sensitive. But I feel justified.
Still, what kind of health writer would I be if I didn’t provide some service? Here is a list of five things that are worse for your sleep than daylight saving time, from the National Sleep Foundation:
1. Your smartphone: With so many ways to stay connected, it’s easy to hop into bed with your smartphone without even realizing it. Every time your phone buzzes or you scroll through your Instagram feed, your smartphone or tablet emits blue light, which can cause over-stimulation and keep you from falling asleep.
2. A bad bedroom environment: TVs, access to email and piles of laundry are common examples of sleep distractions found in the modern bedroom that can produce stress and mental arousal. Anything that doesn’t promote relaxation and sleep should find a home outside of the bedroom to promote a healthy sleep environment.
3. Light pollution: To determine if a bedroom is dark enough for optimal sleep, use midnight as an ideal time indicator. If the room is not pitch black at midnight, light pollution from street lamps, traffic, and city living are reflecting and refracting too much light. This can interfere with the body cues that initiate sleep, and can prevent you from getting healthy shuteye.
4. Taking sleep for granted: According to National Sleep Foundation’s 2015 Sleep in America Poll, Americans who said they were very or extremely motivated to get enough sleep reported sleeping 36 more minutes per night across the week compared to those who were not that motivated or not motivated at all (7.3 vs. 6.7 hours). Simply making sleep a priority and creating a positive sleep environment and routine can help you catch more Zs.
5. Constantly interrupting your sleep cycle: Sleep is vital to overall health, just like diet and exercise. However, due to life pressures, sleep can be the first thing we skimp on when life gets hectic. Consistently lacking sleep can lead to a vicious cycle of other health effects. Adequate sleep helps rejuvenate the body and mind, regulate your mood and hormones, improve learning and memory function, and reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.