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Resetting the body clock from daylight saving time

Written By: Laura Frnka-Davis | Updated: October 26, 2020
Soon it will be time to set our clocks back one hour and return to standard time. An expert weighs in on how to best manage this annual time change.

Soon it will be time to set our clocks back one hour and return to standard time. An expert weighs in on how to best manage this annual time change.

Because of lockdowns and changes in our routines this year due to the pandemic, the days and months have run together, sometimes leaving us questioning what time of year it is.

It is approaching late fall, which means it will soon be time to say goodbye to daylight saving time and set our clocks for standard time.

The customary turning back of clocks will take place just after Halloween night, on Sunday, Nov. 1. And while we gain an hour of sleep, many of us experience difficulty adjusting to the time change.

“If an individual has trouble adapting to the time change, there are a few things that can be done a week ahead of time to aid in the transition,” said Reeba Mathew, MD, a sleep specialist with UT Physicians. “Although most individuals do not have significant difficulty adapting, there are many who do, and this is especially so if they are already sleep-deprived or have trouble sleeping at baseline.”

Reeba Mathew, MD

Mathew, an associate professor of medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, recommends starting the week before the time change by scheduling your evening meal and bedtime about 15 minutes earlier each day until the actual time change. This is a smart strategy for anyone who has issues making the adjustment.

“This will get the body’s circadian clock as close to the desired time by the day of the time change and does so gradually,” Mathew. “If done in this manner, the transition becomes easier, and you don’t have to adjust so much during the actual time change.”

Our internal circadian rhythm works in sync with the outside light-dark cycle. Although it is only an hour, it is difficult for our internal or circadian clock to make the change in one day. According to Mathew, our body likes routine, and abrupt change can be disruptive.

In addition to this approach of managing the time change, it is essential to practice good sleep hygiene by keeping your schedule regular and aiming for adequate sleep, at least seven to eight hours a night. Minimizing caffeine and alcohol use, not napping during the day, and avoiding strenuous exercise, bright lights, and screen time close to bedtime are good habits.

Children can also benefit from these strategies, even more so. Their meal and bedtimes should be moved up earlier, keeping in mind that children need more sleep than adults.

“Kids do much better if they see their grown-ups modeling these behaviors,” said Mathew.

Read more about the UT Physicians sleep clinic or make an appointment with one of our specialists.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.