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How Daylight Saving Time Impacts Your Health

Gaining an extra hour of daylight is a sure sign that spring is on its way and warmer months are ahead! But ‘springing forward’ can also impact your health in surprising ways.  

Moving the clocks ahead can throw off your circadian rhythm - your body's natural 24 hour cycle that aligns with daylight hours and nighttime hours. This change can contribute to getting less sleep than you need. Lack of sleep in the days after a time change can lead to grogginess and reduced mental sharpness.

Make sure to add extra reminders to take your medications on time after a time change, such as leaving a note for yourself or setting a reminder notification in your smartphone. One common concern is when to take your medications the day after a time change. In general, it is recommended to keep your medications on the same schedule. So, if you take your medication at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the Saturday before the time change, take your medications at 8 a.m. and 8p.m. on the Sunday after the time change. 

A disruption to sleep habits can also cause an increase in disorientation and erratic behavior. This is especially true for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Small changes to a schedule can feel disruptive to those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Daylight saving time can make symptoms of sundowning (becoming confused or disoriented at the end of the day) worse. Lower lighting, shadows on the walls, the flurry of activity as people come home from work or as a care shift changes all can cause confusion.  

So what can you do to counteract the negative effects of daylight saving time?

Tips for adjusting to daylight saving time

  1. Keep a routine: Keeping a regular sleep pattern–a change of no more than 20 minutes in when you wake up and go to bed–can help keep your internal clock on track.
  2. Avoid disrupters: Caffeine, alcohol, over-the-counter sleep medications, and naps can make it more difficult to adjust to the time change.
  3. Get some sun: Exposure to natural sunlight helps regulate your body's natural rhythms.
  4. Be active: Engaging in light exercise such as walking, jogging, biking, or swimming in the late afternoon or early evening may help you fall asleep easier.  
  5. Make your room sleep-ready: Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. 

In addition, if you are caring for someone with dementia, it can be helpful to:

  • Keep their normal routine for waking, meals, and activities
  • Limit their napping
  • Place nightlights in areas that grow dark as the sun sets
  • As evening approaches, try to create a relaxed atmosphere and keep background noise to a minimum

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