Back to Health and Wellness

Daylight Savings and Lack of Sleep

Posted on November 5th, 2021

On November 7, we set our clocks back an hour for daylight savings 2021. By doing so, we gained an extra 60 minutes of sunlight, and gained an hour of sleep. While this may all seem like a positive, adjusting to daylight savings time—in addition to adjusting the changing season and temperatures—affects our bodies in several different ways! You may not even realize it, but shorter days and colder weather can put stresses on your eyes. FYidoctors delves into what happens to our biological clock and the health of our eyes when we force them to adjust to a daylight saving time change, and how to protect your eyes during this change.

The science behind our body clock

How the time change impacts you depends on your personal health, sleep habits, and lifestyle. The one-hour adjustment of our sleep patterns and schedules disrupts circadian rhythms and interferes with cortisol levels, which are the hormones that fluctuate throughout the day to help manage stress on the body and increase blood sugar when levels are low.

Moving our clocks in either direction alters our body’s natural time cue—light signaled to our brains through our eyes—for setting and resetting our 24-hour cycle. When we adjust our schedules, our circadian clock becomes out of sync. Light suppresses the secretion of the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. So, it is important to expose yourself to natural light during the daytime hours as much as possible.

Lack of sleep and your eyes

What happens when you don’t sleep? Not getting enough rest can interfere with your overall eye health. Your eyes need at least five hours of sleep per night to properly replenish. Without that replenishment, eyes cannot work at their full potential. A common side effect of sleep deprived eyes is eye spasms, known as myokymia.

Whenever your sleep pattern is disrupted, either by DST or other reasons, lack of sleep can lead to serious vision problems, including dark circles under the eyes due to swelling (this usually disperses with proper rest). It can cause dry eye syndrome, a condition when tears do not lubricate your eyes adequately. When dry eye sets in, you can experience symptoms of pain, light sensitivity, itching, redness, or even blurred vision.

So, we recommend: 

  1. Try to get to bed earlier. Starting a pattern of getting more sleep each night will help your body adjust to the time change.
  2. Take the time to create a sleep-friendly environment; this means creating routines before going to bed to gradually relax yourself (like taking a hot bubble bath, wearing ear plugs or wearing eye masks).
  3. Try to create a sleep routine. Waking up and sleeping at the same time each day helps your body maintain a schedule.
  4. Eat a healthy breakfast first thing in the morning. Food indicates to your body that it is the start of the day, whether it’s light outside or not.
  5. Spend as much time outdoors as possible; not only does this help maintain your circadian rhythm, but two hours minimum outside per day can also help slow the onset of nearsightedness.
  6. Avoid blue light from devices like phones, tablets, and computers before bedtime. Early research hints that blue light may have an impact on circadian rhythms.

DST is much like jet lag, and the older you are the harder it is to adjust. Give yourself time to reprogram.

If you have any eye health concerns, book an appointment with your local FYidoctors.