Are you feeling grumpy, sleepy, dopey and a little sneezy this week?
You’re likely suffering from a disruption in your circadian sleep rhythms due to the start of daylight saving time, which began on Sunday.
“On average, Americans lose almost an hour of sleep when we ‘spring forward,’ and it takes several days and sometimes longer to recover and reestablish a regular sleep schedule,” said Rizwana Sultana, a physician who specializes in sleep science at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
“For most of us, the disruption is like a mini jet lag,” she said. “At work you may lack concentration, feel fatigued, and be sleepy in the middle of the day but it should pass in a few days.”
However, those who don’t get as much sleep as they need already will get even less after the time change, and are likely to be more seriously affected, she said.
Also, teenagers who have difficulty going to bed earlier may have a hard time adjusting and may be sleepy for more than several days, she said.
“Circadian rhythms — the body’s 24-hour internal clock — is a powerful biological process that governs the wake and sleep cycles of living beings,” Sultana said.
People’s circadian rhythms follow the sun and change depending on where they live. It actually changes in four-minute intervals, exactly the time it takes for the sun to cross one line of longitude.
Our body clock is internally generated but it is influenced by our environment and behavior, and the difference can be noticeable.
“Sleep disturbance can cause increased irritability, hunger and slower reflexes, which may be one reason why more vehicle accidents occur in the days following the time change,” Sultana said.
In a 2016 study published in “American Economic Journal,” researchers analyzed vehicle accidents immediately before and after daylight saving time in a 10-year period in the United States. Their results showed a 6 percent increase in the number of crashes in the days immediately following the time change.
Also, if you’ve been sticking with a resolution for sensible eating, be on guard. Loss of sleep can affect hormone levels, which lead to how hungry you feel and how long it takes to feel hunger satisfied.
“Sleep deficiency increases the hormone ghrelin, which makes us hungry, and decreases the release of leptin, which makes us feel satisfied when we eat,” Sultana said.
People who are sleep deprived are more likely to become ill, she said.
The German researcher Till Roennberg recently published a paper on circadian rhythms in the journal “Current Biology” urging people to take their sleep cycle seriously.
“When you change clocks to daylight saving time, you don’t change anything related to sun time,” he said.
“This is one of those human arrogances — that we can do whatever we want as long as we are disciplined. We forget that there is a biological clock that is as old as living organisms, a clock that cannot be fooled. The pure social change of time cannot fool the clock.”