Do Time Changes Mess with Your Body?

One out of three Americans doesn’t get enough sleep. That’s according to the CDC. Perhaps you are among those 33%. 

So, an extra hour of sleep sounds pretty good, right? That’s what we’ll get on Sunday, November 5, in most of the country. 

But the change from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time is not all it’s cracked up to be. And that’s why many people want to get rid of this twice-annual time change.

As kids, many of us loved Daylight Saving Time. It meant an additional hour of playing outdoors in the summer. As adults, many of us could live without it.

Are time changes on their way out?

The Associated Press and National Opinion Research Center combined to conduct a poll on this subject. They discovered the vast majority of Americans want the biannual practice of changing clocks ended. 

Seventy-one percent said they prefer to keep their clocks steady throughout the year. Only 28% wished to continue springing forward and falling back.

There was less of a consensus among the 71% regarding which time to stick with.

40% said they wanted to stay on Standard. 31% said Daylight. Some studies show a permanent Standard to be optimal.

Time changes disrupt sleep

Other than the hassle of changing clocks – most of which is done automatically – why are most people against time changes?

There are several reasons. Including those pertaining to health. For one thing, research has shown time changes negatively affect sleeping patterns.

Dr. Phyllis Zee is a sleep researcher at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. She said changing time interrupts sleep schedules. And can worsen problems sleep-deprived people already suffer. Time changes are also linked to heart issues.

Under federal law, states can choose to remain on Standard Time year ‘round. So far, only Hawaii and Arizona have chosen to do so. Legislation on this subject is frequently proposed in other states.

Fewer Z’s = health issues

Let’s take a closer look at the effects of time changes on sleep. One study found that in the week following the spring switch to Daylight Saving Time, teenagers slept about 2.5 hours less than the previous week.

Sleep disruptions were not as severe for older Americans, but were still prevalent. Even without time changes, one in three U.S. adults sleeps less than the recommended seven to eight hours per night. The November time change also disrupts sleep patterns.

Getting less sleep than necessary – known as sleep deprivation – has health problems written all over it. Including serious ones.

Levels of stress hormones are increased when we don’t get enough sleep. And that can result in increased heart rates. 

Internal clocks don’t change

An increased number of car crashes has been connected to time changes. A German study found an increase in fatalities in the week after the start of Daylight Saving Time.

Poor performances on alertness tests are also linked to time changes. These are short-lived effects, but they can be troublesome when they occur.

Circadian biologists say problems adjusting to time changes are due to disruptions of our internal clocks. Our biological clocks are set to exposure to sunlight and darkness. And every cell keeps track of time.

Those clocks regulate a number of bodily functions. Some of which are negatively affected by time changes and our behavioral adjustments to those changes.

Even a mismatch of one hour daily over a period of time can wreak havoc on some of us. It can trigger stress, disorientation, and memory loss. Overall cognitive function can be affected. As can social interactions.

A push to banish time changes 

Some people prefer Daylight Saving Time. Regardless of whether it’s biannual or constant. They dislike driving home after work in the dark during winter. 

Others claim depression sets in when the switch is made from Daylight to Standard Time. Which makes sense. We spend less time in the sun in winter, and low levels of Vitamin D are linked to low mood.      

Lack of sunlight also suppresses production of serotonin. It can play a key role in mood balance. In one hospital study, 11% of people were more depressed after a fall time change.

Some sleep scientists and circadian biologists push for a permanent ban of time changes across the country. They believe any positive effects resulting from time changes are far outweighed by negatives. 

Tips for time change adjustments 

Here are a few tips for avoiding time change pitfalls. 

•  Make a gradual shift. Start going to bed and getting up 10-15 minutes earlier or later (depending on the specific time change) several days before the change. 

•  Stick to your sleep schedule. Once the change has occurred, go to bed and get up at normal times.

•  Maintain good sleep hygiene. Sleep in a cool room with no TV or computer screen distractions.

•  Get out in the sun. Soak in that Vitamin D when you can, even if it’s just for a short walk.

•  Limit caffeine intake. Especially in the afternoon. Eliminate it at night.

How do you feel about biannual time changes, including the one coming up in three weeks? Feel free to respond in the comments section below.


  • william onderlinde - October 16, 2023

    Like most of us, I like the longer daylight hours. The shorter days are a real BUMMER. I REALLY don’t like driving home or to work in the dark.
    Germany is really bad for this during the winter since you can go for DAYS with overcast skies, and then made worse by shorter days.
    Now we all KNOW that we are stuck with the periods of daylight/darkness as they are. DUH!
    I can’t see how a magic window of always being near daylight when you wake up and driving to/from work is possible.
    Last thought: Here in San Antonio, TX I noticed how gradual the shift to the extra daylight of DST is, and how SHARP the drop off is the closer we get to Standard. For some reason I didn’t notice this before. Maybe it’s me, maybe there’s a reason for it.

  • Phylis J Davidson - October 16, 2023

    Putting it on the ballot sounds like a good idea. I prefer daylight longer.

  • Nancy in Oregon - October 16, 2023

    I AM AGAINST TIME CHANGE. I have the fortunate situation of bring retired, where time is not as constrained. I do not have to subject myself to a forced circadian change,

  • Felicia - October 16, 2023

    The time change is no longer necessary or productive. It was a wartime measure. California voted to get rid of the time change approximately 6years ago and our fair CA Legislature still has not listened to the people. Supposedly there was some law that needed to be adjusted before doing so. If we had to vote again, I would still vote against it. Make it standard time or DST time all year, I don’t care… just get it done!

  • Linda - October 16, 2023

    I am for eliminating them and keeping daylight time permanent.

  • edi biggerstaff - October 16, 2023

    I hate the time change. I would like it to stay in the daylight later in the day. Many people go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Not good for the body or mental state. It wastes time even on weekends when we need more time to take care of our life requirements, property care, etc.

  • Alvin D Watters - October 16, 2023

    Put it on the ballot

  • Raymond Pelky - October 16, 2023

    Totally against time change.

  • Ruth - October 16, 2023

    Many don’t realize but the time change also affects your pets. I know my pup Tilly will sleep longer when it’s still dark outside in the morning, she will wake up and look at the window and if it’s dark goes back to sleep.

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