What does the end of daylight savings time mean for sleep?

It’s easier than spring, but there can be issues

By Roland Wilkerson

So the start of the daylight saving time in the spring hogs all the attention because we lose a glorious hour of sleep, and it disrupts schedules for a lot of people. But what about the end of daylight saving time in the autumn when we “fall back” on the clock and gain an extra hour? Even though we get to “sleep in” that Sunday morning, are there any issues we need to be aware of?

Novant Health sleep specialist Dr. Nancy Behrens has answers.

Dr. Nancy Behrens

Most people adjust more easily when we turn the clocks back in the fall. But the end of daylight saving time means it gets dark earlier, which can cause some people to feel depressed. This can especially bother those with seasonal affective disorder. Making sure to get outside in the natural light during the day can help with mood, energy levels and sleep quality at night. Some people find using a special lightbox to increase light exposure in the morning helpful.

Other points to keep in mind:

  • Making sure to get enough sleep helps us to adjust to changes in our schedules more easily. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
  • Practicing healthy sleep habits, like avoiding cell phones/tablets/computers during the hour before bed and overnight, keeping the bedroom dark and quiet without the TV on, and avoiding caffeine after 2 p.m. can improve our sleep quality.
  • It is important to discuss and treat any other sleep conditions like sleep apnea (when people stop breathing in their sleep) or restless legs syndrome with your doctor.
  • Most people do well with getting an extra hour of sleep on one night during the fall daylight saving change. However, some people with headache syndromes may find that they are especially sensitive to schedule changes. And some people are early birds and find it hard to stay up later. If you find that going to bed and sleeping in an hour later is harder for you, you can try to make this change more gradually, changing your schedule later by 15 to 30 minutes in the days before the official change.
  • You can help young children make the adjustment by making sure they have good sleep habits in general. Making a more gradual change in schedule a couple of days before the official change can help. Be patient as kids can be more irritable and show more behavior problems as they adjust to the time change. Make sure that they are in bed with the room dark, allowing enough time for sleep for their age group. Remember sleep requirements vary by age: 3- to 5-year-olds require 10 to 13 hours per night, while 6- to 13-year-olds need 9 to 11 hours of sleep.
  • The recommended sleep time for teenagers is 8 to 10 hours. Most teenagers experience a natural shift in sleep-wake cycles to later times. They stay up and sleep in later. With school starting early and homework and activities in the evenings, many teens are sleep-deprived, which can affect their ability to drive safely, their performance at school and their mental health. It’s important to make getting enough sleep a priority. Avoiding electronic devices the hour before bed and taking these out of the bedroom can really improve sleep for teens.


 Novant Health sleep specialists can study your sleep patterns and design a plan to improve the quality of your rest.