Here’s What Happens to Your Body When Daylight Saving Time Ends

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Federico Paul)

Resetting your clocks for Daylight Saving Time can be a serious setback for your sleep schedule. When DST ends (this weekend! the clocks fall back at 2 a.m. on Sunday) and the hours of daylight are reduced, your daily routine can be significantly disrupted.

(And, PSA, until Sunday it’s technically wrong to write “EST” in your emails. See: What Everyone Gets Wrong About Daylight Saving Time)

So what exactly happens to your body when Daylight Saving Time ends? We called on Clinical Psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor, Janet K. Kennedy, PhD, to help us better understand how our bodies react to the time change. Read ahead to hear what she had to say, and for her tips on how to adjust to your new sleep schedule.

So, what changes does your body actually experience when Daylight Saving Time ends?

“The beginning of Daylight Saving Time in the Spring is harder on the body than the end of DST in the Fall. But fewer daylight hours can trigger depressed moods and the fatigue that goes along with it. Fewer daylight hours generally helps to improve sleep quality because darkness triggers the release of melatonin (a hormone that naturally regulates our sleep). However, we often undo that benefit with harsh, artificial light and handheld screens that suppress our melatonin levels.”

(Image credit: Mackenzie Schieck)

Are there any strategies you can use ahead of time to avoid disrupting your sleep schedule when DST ends?

“It’s usually not worth going to great lengths to prepare for the time shift. Some people try to switch up their bedtime a couple of days before the time change, but it’s unclear whether that is actually effective or worth the effort. However, it can help to shift young children gradually in advance so they won’t be waking up dramatically early when the clocks change. Parents of young kids are the ones who really suffer with the end of DST.”

Any tips for improving your sleep once Daylight Saving Time ends?

“Stick with your normal schedule. In the fall, it’s common to wake up earlier than usual for a few days. There’s no need to stay in bed trying to force sleep in the morning. However, it’s important to avoid going to bed earlier even if you are tired. Stick to your usual bedtime and your circadian rhythm will adjust within a week. Try to avoid excess caffeine or napping to battle daytime fatigue, which can prolong the jetlag-like effect of the time change by making it harder to fall asleep at bedtime.”