Joshua Tal, PhD
What is better? Get an extra hour of sleep in the morning or an extra hour of daylight in the eve?
For this one I do not think there is necessarily a right or wrong answer, but rather it is important to choose one and stick to it. If you choose one to focus on, it will result in better help for sleep. With that being said, if we are talking about daylight savings where we are jumping back an hour and forth an hour based on the season, there can be dangers to constantly changing sleep. Losing that hour of daylight can trigger a number of things, including brain fog, sleep anxiety, ADD symptoms, depression, and even increased car accidents. Disruption of the circadian rhythm can cause numerous and sometimes severe effects, but they typically pass during the days following daylights saving.
What are Circadian Rhythms?
Circadian Rhythms are 24 hour cycles that are part of our internal clock which help us to carry out essential functions and processes. The sleep-wake cycle is one of the circadian rhythms, and usually the one people talk about most. These cycles are synchronized with a master clock in our brain. This can be influenced by environmental surroundings, such as light. When the circadian rhythm is thrown off it can cause significant sleep issues – one being insomnia.
Effects of daylight savings on Circadian Rhythm
Daylight savings can disrupt your sleep cycles. Although the circadian rhythm delays or advancements are internal, there are many other influences. Such as environment, behavior, and medications. Light is an environmental cue. This is why it is so important to get as much wake time when it is light out, and we try not to be exposed to too much light when you are trying to sleep (and why we use blue light blocking glasses for sleep). Surprisingly, gaining an hour of sleep can also cause a disruption with the circadian rhythm. Most people do not take advantage of this extra hour and use that time to sleep. Most people tend to lose that extra hour of sleep during this time. This is because it can take some time for your body’s internal clock to adjust to these changes. This is easily explained if we think about it. Nothing is really changing in your environment, the only thing changing is the clock.
Which would be more beneficial?
If you were to have to choose one or the other – the better option would be to wake up when it is light out. Although, it is not critical. Like previously discussed the light effects the circadian rhythm but also melatonin production and sleep cycles. Sleeping while it is dark can reduce potential distractions and disruptions. Closing your eyes, room darkening curtains, etc is not enough to block out enough light. Circadian rhythm can occur even with the lowest level of indoor light and closed eyes. Light exposure can inhibit transitions between your sleep cycles which will reduce your quality of sleep. Excessive light can result in repeat awakening, interrupt your sleep cycle and also reduce the time you spend in a deep, more recuperative sleep.
This answer is not a substitute for professional medical advice. This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment.