Will the End of Daylight Saving Time Affect Your Sleep?

While you may be glad for that extra hour of sleep, how much will daylight saving time disrupt your sleep schedule?

A man holding a clock, changing the time on it.

Fall marks the return of pumpkin spice and the departure of daylight saving time (DST). This year, DST ends on November 5, 2023.

That means we’ll all “fall back,” gaining an hour. At 2 a.m., our clocks will backtrack one hour to 1 a.m. The good news: We technically gain an hour of sleep. The potentially not-so-great news: That small transition may wreak havoc on your sleep schedule, particularly if you have pets or kids.

“At the end of daylight saving, we set our clocks back by an hour,” explains Dr. Funke Afolabi-Brown, sleep medicine physician and founder of Restful Sleep MD. “While more sleep disruptions occur in spring at the start of daylight saving — due to the sleep loss from moving the clock an hour ahead — some studies have shown difficulties adjusting to the new wake-up time after transitioning to standard time in November.”

Dr. Chris Winter, neurologist, Sleep.com advisor, and author of "The Rested Child" and "The Sleep Solution," believes that for most people, the one-hour time change that occurs twice a year shouldn’t have a major impact on sleep. “It’s a flight from Atlanta to Nashville — it’s an hour,” he says. “I suspect that if we snuck into people’s homes and changed their clocks, there would be little mention of the affair.”

That said, Winter believes the “fall back” that occurs when DST ends should be even less impactful on sleep than the “spring forward” jump that takes place earlier in the year, just like flying from Atlanta to Nashville (gaining an hour) should theoretically be easier than flying from Nashville to Atlanta (losing an hour). “It’s easier for people to stay up a little later than to go to bed a little earlier and then sleep a little later. If some are not able to stay up a little later, early morning awakenings can sometimes be an issue since people are waking up earlier than their wake time. This transition is usually the easier one — it’s easier to eat dinner later than to try to eat early before your appetite is developed.”

How the end of DST affects sleep

While the original reason for the DST transition was to help save energy and optimize daylight use for farm work and time outdoors, research has shown that modern electricity isn’t really affected much by the switches. A poll by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine even indicated that people would prefer to eliminate the time changes altogether.

In March of 2022, the Senate approved the bill to make DST permanent, though it subsequently stalled out. Most sleep specialists prefer standard time, as it allows us to get sunlight earlier in the day, which better cues our circadian rhythms.

Regardless, while Winter points out the end of DST shouldn’t have a noticeable negative effect on most people’s sleep habits, some sensitive snoozers may experience minor changes in their energy levels.

“After DST ends, people tend to feel sleepier at night and tend to wake up earlier,” Brown says. “For example, if your typical sleep time is 10 p.m. during DST, you may find yourself dozing off by 9 p.m. after DST.”

According to Brown, some of the common symptoms associated with DST-related sleep issues are excessive daytime sleepiness, moodiness, and irritability. In children, you may see being “overtired” manifest as hyperactivity.

Brown says that the physiological changes that may manifest in sleep problems at the end of DST are ultimately due to a “misalignment” between our environmental and internal clocks. “Sleep is based on two processes,” she explains. “The homeostatic drive, which results in our increasing desire to sleep the longer we are awake, and our circadian rhythm, which is our natural 24-hour cycle — including the sleep-wake cycle — that regulates the timing of sleep at night and wakefulness during the day. With the end of DST, your body is adjusting to less evening light and more morning light, which may throw off your circadian rhythm over a few days. Compared to DST however, with standard time, our internal clocks will be more in sync with the Earth’s rotation, season changes, and the sun.”

Top tips on how to keep your sleep on track as DST ends

Winter says that anyone overly worried about the 60-minute difference in their or their child’s daily routine may want to slowly tweak their schedule in preparation for the switch. “They can begin adjusting their bedtimes and wake times in the days leading up [to it], as well as mealtimes,” he says. Pets may also be thrown off, expecting meals and walks at different times.

Another potentially impactful tip for maintaining sleep regularity is soaking in natural sunlight whenever possible. “Take advantage of the sun, which is our strongest cue,” Brown says. “Within the first few days of the time change, it is bright outside in the mornings and becomes dark at an earlier time in the evening. To synchronize the new light-dark cycle with your circadian clock, try to get as much late-afternoon sun exposure before switching the clock back and as much morning sun as possible after switching the clocks to help ease the transition. The reason why is that this provides a gradual shift of the internal clock in anticipation of the change.”

Of course, the other standard sleep hygiene tips are also crucial for those who feel the need to prep for the end of DST. Brown says everything from maintaining a consistent bedtime routine and limiting bright-light exposure an hour before bed to avoiding alcohol before bed and cutting off caffeine at least six hours before are important steps. “If you have a flexible schedule, a few days before DST ends, go to bed and wake up 10 to 15 minutes later each day to minimize the effects of the time change to your body,” she says.

Winter’s final words of wisdom? Try to relax. “I think the biggest thing is not to worry,” he says. It will disrupt your sleep a little, or it won’t — it’s an hour. You probably stayed up an extra hour or more Saturday night and slept in several hours. Is this ideal? Probably not. Is it worth stressing about? I don’t think so.”