Daylight Saving Time: Baylor Sleep Expert Offers Suggestions to Help Adjust to the Change
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WACO, Texas (March 2, 2023) – Daylight saving time, with its one-hour spring forward at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 12, may seem like a small shift of just a single hour, but on a societal level, it has startling effects, says Baylor University sleep researcher Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory at Baylor.
So what are the consequences of this one-hour time shift on our sleep quality and how can we quickly adjust when springing our clocks forward?
"Many people not only lose that single hour of sleep," Scullin said, "but also have difficulty over several subsequent nights adjusting their circadian rhythms to the new bed-wake time schedules."
For example, parents who have routine bedtimes for their children experience difficulty for the whole family because children will not want to (or be able to) go to bed one hour earlier than their body is used to.
"When you couple this bedtime difficulty with the fact that most people have morning school and work schedules that require them to wake up at a set time," Scullin said, "it becomes clear that ‘springing forward’ has a larger consequence than skipping a single hour."
The consequences of the spring daylight saving time shift are well documented. Researchers have observed changes in cognitive functioning, increased driving accidents, moodiness and willingness to punish others for mistakes.
"Researchers have also documented that acute sleep loss and circadian dysregulation lead to an increase in cardiovascular events," Scullin said. "If someone's cardiovascular health is ‘borderline’ then the springtime shift can be the factor that precipitates a stroke or a myocardial infarction (heart attack)."
Scullin offers some simple suggestions to anticipate and adapt to the spring forward shift:
- Adjust in advance. About a week before the "spring forward," go to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier each day.
- Avoid long naps during the day. If you need a nap, take it earlier in the day and for no more than 20 minutes.
- Bring on the sunlight. Getting more natural sunlight in the morning hours is very beneficial in resetting our biological clock.
- In some cases, evening melatonin also can help people to adapt to the time change.
Scullin has published numerous studies focusing on sleep and brain function, including the connection between sleep and creativity, musical “earworms” and their effect on sleep and how writing a to-do list before you turn in for the night can help you get better sleep. In fact, Scullin was named Baylor’s inaugural Newsmaker of the Year in 2018, after his “to-do list” research was widely covered by media outlets, including ABC’s Good Morning America, TODAY.com, USA TODAY, Discover, LiveScience, HealthDay, BBC Radio and many more, reaching an international circulation and viewership of nearly 1 billion people.
ABOUT MICHAEL SCULLIN, PH.D.
Michael Scullin, Ph.D., completed his doctorate in the Behavior, Brain, and Cognition program at Washington University in St. Louis and then a post-doctoral fellowship in the Neurology and Sleep Medicine program at Emory University School of Medicine. He joined the Baylor University psychology and neuroscience faculty in 2015. Through grants ranging from the National Science Foundation to the National Institutes of Health, Scullin’s research investigates how sleep physiology impacts memory, cognition and health. He also is interested in how we use memory to fulfill our daily intentions (a special kind of memory called “prospective" memory”), including whether reminder apps and other technological solutions can reduce prospective memory difficulties in older age and the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
As director of the Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Lab, Scullin ensures transformational research opportunities for post-doctoral fellows, post-baccalaureate research assistants, graduate students and undergraduate students at Baylor. In 2020, Scullin received the Elizabeth Vardaman Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduates, which is presented annually to only seven faculty for their mentorship of undergraduates, demonstrating excellence in, and sustained commitment to, helping these students excel through engaged learning activities.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.