Clocking in on Daylight Savings Time

At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March10, a semiannual event that ranks right up there with the Woollybear Festival (don’t ask!): Daylight Savings Time (DST) begins. For the next seven to 10 days, you’ll hear people complaining how tired they are and how they can’t adjust to the time change. If we have trouble adjusting our body clocks, how much more difficult is it for older people to conform?

While everyone might feel the effects of sleep loss, seniors are particularly susceptible to the change, especially if they have a chronic illness. Extended daylight fragments sleep for older people.

While no research has been conducted on the effects of DST on older people, the change could cause a mistake in medication management and increase fall risk, an article at reports. Upsetting natural biorhythms may increase disorientation, according to Matthew Mingone, MD, lead physician for EOS Sleep California centers, a practice that diagnosis and treats problems such as sleep apnea.

Dr. Mingone and Sharon Roth-Maguire, MS, RN, of BrightStar Care, offer some tips to help seniors adjust to the time change:

  • Maintain sleep patterns. The time between falling asleep and waking up shouldn’t vary by more than 20 minutes.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, over-the-counter sleep meds and do not take naps, especially during the first days of DST.
  • Engage in a physical activity in the late afternoon or early evening. Roth-Maguire says that a hot, relaxing bath will have the same effect because the sun helps to regulate body rhythms.
  • Make sure the bedroom is quiet, cool and dark enough to promote sleep.

By following a few of these tips, it might be easier for residents—and yourselves—to get a good night’s sleep. Meanwhile, my nonelectronic clocks and timers will have to wait until I get around to them. Sweet dreams.

Topics: Clinical , Executive Leadership