Daylight Saving Time comes around twice a year, but lots of people still don't know much about it. The biannual tradition of changing our clocks one hour forward before spring and one hour backward before fall is certainly a confusing one. That said, this strange practice of taking advantage of more sunlight for a few months turns 100 this year, so we think it's as good a time as any to learn more about it — and to figure out how to better prepare ourselves for it as it quickly emerges once more on March 11, 2018.
Enter Shilpi Agarwal, MD, a family medicine physician who is ready to debunk common myths surrounding Daylight Saving Time (sometimes mistakenly called Daylight Savings Time) so we can get straight to the facts about what happens when we lose an hour — and what that means for our health. This way, we can arm ourselves with the knowledge of what negative side effects might occur, and how to prevent them — or at least make them a little less annoying.
Below, Dr. Agarwal shares her take on myths about Daylight Saving Time — and how to help yourself truly "spring forward" in the best way you can.
Myth 1: You're not that tired from Daylight Saving Time.
You're not imagining things if you feel a little more fatigue after Daylight Saving Time than you usually do. Agarwal says it can sometimes take your body about four to seven days to adjust to the new schedule. She usually suggests to her patients to try to get to bed a little earlier for a couple of days before it starts. "For the two or three days leading up to it, if you can sleep 15 to 20 minutes earlier, your body’s more likely to naturally wake up on time," Agarwal said. "And just like you set that alarm at, say, 6 a.m. to wake up, at 10 p.m., have an alarm on your phone. If you’re watching TV or on your phone and lose track of time, your phone reminds you, 'Hey, it's 10 o’clock. Time to go to bed.'"
Myth 2: The extra hour of daylight in Daylight Saving Time makes us happier.
Would be nice, right? As frustrating as hearing this myth might be, it's easy to see why some people might think that. After all, sunshine brings a smile to many people's faces. But Agarwal says generally speaking, getting an extra hour of it might not necessarily make us happier — especially since enjoyable weather is so seasonally dependent. "Right now, it's pretty cold and dreary," she said. A good point! We don't know about you, but we're not exactly about to bask in the daylight if it includes crazy weather patterns like bomb cyclones and polar vortexes.
Myth 3: Irritability and mood changes come out of nowhere during Daylight Saving Time.
Considering people quite literally have "less time," they might feel more pressured than usual to meet deadlines and get everything on their to-do lists done. That's why Agarwal suggests preparing for this in advance — with positivity. "Focus on something Saturday and Sunday that you’re really excited about," she said. "Plan a fun vacation for the springtime when the weather gets warmer, read a book you’re into, watch something that's uplifting and fun to kind of boost your mood."
Myth 4: Every person in the world uses Daylight Saving Time.
Although most states in the United States observe Daylight Saving Time, it's far from being a practice everywhere. There are plenty of countries around the world — like Japan, India, and Iceland, to name a few — that do not practice it at all. There are also a few countries that only practice Daylight Saving Time in certain regions, like Australia. The United States even has a few places that don't practice it, including Hawaii, Arizona — with the exception of Navajo Nation — along with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Considering lawmakers in Florida just voted to just voted to keep this year's Daylight Saving Time all year long without changing clocks again, we might be looking at other states following this example in the future.
Myth 5: Losing an hour of sleep doesn't make a difference.
Although just one hour might not seem that long in the grand scheme of things, Agarwal said it can indeed become a big deal if you make a habit out of it. In some cases, it can even lead to chronic fatigue. Agarwal said some people also fall out of their daily routine right after Daylight Saving Time starts; for example, morning exercisers sometimes skip their workout entirely, and some people turn to caffeine late in the day, which in turn makes it harder to catch up on sleep later. If you do find yourself being less productive or engaged right after, she suggests setting a time limit for yourself for 20 minutes of doing non-productive things, as opposed to doing them all day because you're tired.
We don't know about you, but we're ready to snap back into our routine before we ever snap out of it. Let's take Daylight Saving Time by storm — but hopefully not literally, because we're ready for some real springtime now!
Dr. Shilpi Agarwal is a board-certified physician and the author of The 10 Day Total Body Transformation ($12.58, Amazon).
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