LOGO 2019
Man staring at alarm clock late at night because he's unable to sleep

Don’t Let “Falling Back” Fell Your Sleep Routine

By Kristy Warren

As we get ready to turn the clocks back an hour this Saturday, it's a great time to think about our sleeping habits. Whether we're "falling back" or "springing forward," Daylight Saving Time can have a big impact on our health. Learn how to set yourself up for success and minimize disruptions to your sleep routine below.


Both “springing forward” and “falling back” affect more than our sleep. The shift in daylight hours affects everything from our daily activities to our body rhythms, mood, focus, energy, and overall health.

Tired man rubbing at his eyes and feeling rundown while working on his laptop

When we lose sleep, it affects our concentration, judgment, mood, and productivity. Lost sleep can increase our risk of getting into a car accident, suffering a heart attack, or worsening an underlying health issue. Studies show that the number of people involved in crashes and cardiac events increases right after the start of Daylight Saving Time when we “spring forward” and lose an hour of sleep.

On the other hand, when we gain sleep it can positively improve our health and our wellness. "Falling back" in autumn can help some people feel more rested, but even when we gain an hour of sleep, we may still struggle with reseting to a new routine and getting enough sleep. 


Have you ever wondered why changing the clocks affects our sleep and well-being so much, even though it happens every year? Our bodies are fine-tuned to know what to expect in a 24-hour cycle. If you’ve ever had to rotate your work shifts, pull an all-nighter, or balance an early Monday morning with a late-night weekend, you know even a temporary shift in this routine throws off our body’s expectations in a big way.


When we have an established routine and stick to it, our body learns when it’s time to wake up, eat, get active, focus, and sleep. Our bodies need and expect a certain amount of rest every day. The ideal amount of sleep varies by person based on their age, health, and individual needs. For example, children need more sleep than adults to support their growing bodies, and someone with an illness may require more rest than usual.


When we don't get our requisite amount of sleep, our body keeps track of those missing hours. The difference between how much sleep we get and how much we actually need is often described as our sleep debt or sleep deficit. This deficit can build over time and negatively impact your health. Daylight Saving Time can exacerbate this problem, especially when we lose an hour by springing forward and in the initial weeks of adjusting to a new wake-up time.  


Do you find yourself waking up too early or shuffling around in a fog after changing the clocks? The good news is that with a little preparation, you can stop Daylight Saving Time from up-ending your sleep routine.  There are several simple steps you can take to help your body adapt faster and more easily so you can get back to feeling energized and ready to take on the day sooner. 

Tired man yawning and covering his mouth



Prepare in advance. You can overcome a sleep deficit or a change in your sleep schedule more quickly by preparing for the change well in advance. If you're currently carrying a sleep debt, make use of the extra hour when falling back to make a dent in your deficit. It can be a struggle to stay awake as long as we're used to when we've been getting too little sleep; go to sleep when you feel tired instead of waiting until the clock matches your "usual bedtime." When getting ready to spring forward, begin going to bed a little earlier each night in preparation for the lost hour of sleep. Smaller increments of change over a longer period of time will be more successful at genuinely shifting your bedtime than trying to go to bed an hour earlier the night before the clocks change.


Eat well and stay hydrated. When your body is struggling to adjust to a change, having a healthy source of fuel and plenty of water helps it recover and adapt to your new routine faster.

Reset with breakfast. Eat a healthy breakfast shortly after getting up; food helps cue your body that it’s time to start the day and prepares you for activity.

Build in extra time. Even when you’ve prepared, the first few days after the change can be hard. It may take you longer to get ready or through your morning to-do-list. Build some extra time into your morning routine to allow yourself ample time to start the day and clear the sleep fog before your commute to school or work. 


A woman stretching and looking toward the woman as she wakes up to sunshine

Let the sunshine in. Sunlight plays a big role in our body’s circadian rhythms—the daily cycle of our physical, behavioral, and mental processes.

Circadian rhythms help regulate our sleep-wake cycle over a 24-hour period (that is, when we should wake up and when we should sleep). Sunlight tells our bodies it’s time to wake up and stay awake. Artificial light from your phone, computer, e-reader, or TV screen late at night can disrupt and confuse this natural rhythm by mimicking sunlight's "stay awake" effect, which in turns disturbs the sleep cycle.

Struggling to wake up? Try cracking your blinds so that the light reaches your bed; the sunrise can help you naturally reset your morning routine.


Take a walk. Healthy activity is a great way to help your body acclimate to your new hours, and a walk in the daylight helps reset your body’s circadian rhythms.  

Turn off electronic devices well before bed. Avoid late-night exposure to your phone, TV, tablet, or laptop screen, which can interfere with your body’s sleeping rhythms from artificial light exposure. Instead, do something calming before bed: take a bath, cuddle with a pet or significant other, read a print book, meditate, or listen to relaxing music.

Make more time for rest. Set yourself up for success by prioritizing a good night's sleep. How much sleep you need depends on your age and individual needs. Most adults function best with 7 - 9 hours of sleep per night. Children typically need more: anywhere from 10 - 13 hours of sleep per night depending on their age, growth, and unique needs.

Having trouble sleeping? Our Laurel Health Center experts can help. Your healthcare provider will work with you to identify the underlying cause(s) disrupting your sleep and help you establish a healthy sleep routine. Make an appointment at the office of your choice at 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) to discuss your concerns today.