Do We Really Lose / Gain Sleep?
It happens every year: the dreaded spring morning when 2am comes around but immediately changes to 3am and we “lose” an hour of sleep. Mondays are hard enough as it is. But do we really lose and gain an hour of sleep?
Researchers are now finding that no, we actually don’t gain or lose time asleep. What does happen, however, is a disrupted sleep cycle that can take a week to get back on track.
Our bodies are wired to function according to something called a circadian rhythm. Essentially, the daily cycling of light and dark causes hormone shifts that affect our behavioral, mental, and physical changes throughout the day. These rhythms are on a 24-hour cycle, guided by the sun’s light.
For example, morning sunlight has more “blue” light in it - a quality that computer monitors, tv’s, and phone screens share - which signals to the brain that it is time to “wake up.” This is why researchers say that to get a good night’s sleep, you should avoid watching tv, looking at your phone, or working on the computer at least one hour before bedtime. Evening sunlight, by contrast, has “red” light in it. This signals that it is time to wind down and prepare to sleep, which is why it is recommended that people use light bulbs that emit “yellow-” or “red-”light in bedroom lamps.
When we come to Daylight Savings Time, our bodies become dysregulated because we alter our sleep-wake cycle. Even just a one hour change can completely throw off our circadian rhythms, potentially leading to restless sleep, earlier wake-ups, or difficulty falling asleep for several days the following week1.
Why is Sleep So Important?
Many of us, if asked, would agree that we are “stressed out,” or that “the job is stressful,” or
“the kids are stressing me out.”
This is a very good example of chronic stress.
Chronic stress, or stress that extends over a long period of time, is not uncommon in today’s society; however, it is not something we should overlook. While some stress is beneficial (“fight-or-flight” is an example of acute stress, a defense mechanism meant to keep us safe), chronic stress can have adverse effects on our cardiovascular, immune, neuroendocrine, and central nervous systems2.
A natural way to restore optimal health and support resilience in the face of chronic stress is to engage in restful activities, especially sleep.
Harvard Women’s Health Watch conducted and synthesized a survey on sleep deprivation and published six reasons to get enough sleep:
The National Sleep Foundation has also published an infographic detailing sleep requirements by age.
Healthy Sleep Habits to Adopt
In order to get the most out of your sleep, it is very important to establish a bedtime ritual for yourself. This ritual, or what becomes known as “bedtime boundaries,” subconsciously signals to your brain that it is time to begin winding down and preparing for sleep4.
Many of these are very simple practices that won’t add a great amount of time to our bedtime routines but will drastically change the quality of our sleep.
So...do we really lose or gain sleep during daylight savings time? The consensus seems to be no. However, it is possible to allay the effects of dysregulated circadian rhythms by understanding the importance of rest and how it affects our physiology, as well as practicing healthy sleep habits to proactively take care of our brains and overall health!
Dr. Darshan Shah is a physician, surgeon, entrepreneur, and is considered by many to be the "Doctor of the Future." His passion is educating the public on the newest technologies in health & wellness and how to look and feel your best!