Doctor: Daylight saving time disrupts circadian rhythm, could lead to developing insomnia

The acceptance of the daylight saving time varies from person to person, in terms of preference, and the direct impacts are temporary. But understanding what's going on with you physiologically can help to improve your sleep habits and overall health. 

Kaiser Permanente Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jessica Bergstrom joined Mornings on 2 Sunday to discuss the impact of the time switch on human health.

Bergstrom illustrated how the shift can temporarily knock the circadian rhythm out of sync, consequently impacting a person’s mood, memory, concentration, and more. It’s normal to experience some of these lingering symptoms, along with daytime grogginess. Bergstrom said the chief concern is adapting to the shift and getting your circadian rhythm dialed back in to avoid the development of insomnia. 

The circadian rhythm is essentially a 24-hour clock in your brain that cycles between sleepiness and alertness in regular intervals, or your sleep/wake cycle, according to the National Sleep Foundation. It operates best when you have regular sleep habits. This is difficult to achieve for shift workers. 

Things light jet leg or a compelling TV series that keeps you awake until the early morning hours can disrupt your circadian rhythm, in addition to daylight savings. The potential byproduct is difficulty paying attention or overall feeling out of sorts. 

Tips for managing the shift include, per Dr. Bergstrom: 

  • Create a buffer zone prior to going to bed. This serves as the amount of time between your busy day and when you go to sleep. Having a routine, such as turning the lights down or putting pajamas on, can help better prepare the body to sleep. 
  • Go to bed when you’re tired. People often want to go to bed an hour early to compensate for the time change, but this serves more damage than good, as it can promote insomnia, according to Bergstrom. 
  • Avoid taking 20-plus minute naps. Anything after 20 minutes puts you in a deeper stages of sleep that take away the need for sleep when it’s time for bed.
  • Avoid drinking coffee late. Everyone differs on this, but Bergstrom says she tells her patients not to drink it after noon. 

Your circadian rhythm is not static. As you age, it can change. And you may find that your wake/sleep cycle is different than your partner or child. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that you pay attention to your body and take note when you feel alert or drowsy, as it will lead to developing better sleep hygiene.