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As America 'falls back' to standard time, a doctor's tips for how to get your body and clock in sync

Commuters walk through the morning bright sunlight coming from the 60 feet (18m) high windows in Grand Central Terminal in New York City on March 11, 2019 the first morning after Daylight Savings Time took effect March 10, 2019.
Timothy A. Clary
AFP via Getty Images
Commuters walk through the morning sunlight coming from the 60-foot-high windows in Grand Central Terminal in New York City on March 11, 2019, the first morning after daylight saving time took effect.

This past Sunday, Americans once again went through the biannual ritual of changing their clocks — shifting from daylight saving time back to standard time.

But that adjustment in the clocks can be difficult for some people because they might be robbing themselves of sleep.

Dr. James O'Brien, medical director of ProHealth Sleep Services, said people have a tendency to use the clock as a guideline for going to sleep, not their body's signals.

For example, "when the clock says it's only 9 o'clock, and usually it says 10, our body thinks we can stay up longer." As a result, O'Brien said, "we're actually cutting off an hour's worth of sleep from our usual schedule."

O'Brien said people should listen to their body about when to go to bed at night, which likely means going to bed about an hour earlier than they normally would.

Can naps help you adjust?

O'Brien said naps are helpful but only if they are kept to 20 minutes. A nap shouldn't be so long that you enter the stage where you start having dreams "because if you get into dreamland ... it can interfere [with] your ability to get to sleep later on in the night during your usual sleep cycle," he said.

The future of daylight saving time

The U.S. Senate passed a bill this past spring to make daylight saving time permanent. If the bill becomes law, that means when we set the clocks ahead again in 2023, they will stay that time. We won't set clocks back in the fall.

O'Brien supports the idea of not moving the clocks back and forth every spring and fall. But he prefers keeping the country on standard time, not daylight saving time, because he said it's more in tune with a natural sleep cycle.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
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