Daylight Savings Time

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Figure 1: Daylight Savings Time

As we move the clock forward and enjoy the longer days the season brings, we are also temporarily sleep deprived, which can negatively affect our attention. Here are some tips to help you make a smooth transition both at home and in the classroom.

How does the how daylight saving time sleep disruption affect out bodies?

Sleep is affected by two mechanisms: sleep-awake homeostasis and the circadian rhythm.

Sleep-awake homeostasis refers to the “inner timer” through which we sense when we need to sleep based on how much time elapsed since we last had some shut eye). As daylight savings marks the beginning of longer days and shorter nights, our inner timer “goes for a little spin”.

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Figure 2: Circadian Rhythm [1]
Looking at our circadian biological clock (Fig. 2), the “inner clock” governing when each cell performs its various functions, moving the clock forward shifts all biological processes up by an hour.

As we gain one extra hour of daylight, we lose an hour of sleep. This not only tests our ability to stay focused on the task at hand, but, as research [2, 3, 4] shows, can also adversely affect our health. So what can we do to avoid the ill effects and remain productive?

Making An Easy Transition to Daylight Savings Time (DST)

1. At Home

The following practices can help your body more effectively adapt to this seasonal change:

  1. wake up 30 minutes earlier on Saturday (3/12) and Sunday (3/13) than you need to, in preparation for the early start on Monday (3/14)
    • make time for sleep; most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep/night
    • make your bedroom conducive to sleep (comfortable, quiet or soothing music, dark)
    • if your mind is a whirlwind from the day, put yourself at ease before bed by meditating or journaling
  2. be mindful of what you do before going to bed
    • avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon and especially in the hours right before going to bed
    • eat dinner a couple of hours before going to bed
    • avoid looking at screens (TV, computer, tablet, cell phone) a couple of hours before going to bed
  3. in the first days immediately after DST:
    • eat a decent-sized breakfast
    • go outside in the sunlight in the early morning
    • exercise in the mornings over the weekend (as long as you do not have pre-existing heart disease) [5, 6].

2. In the Classroom

Here are some ideas for how you can have a productive class despite everyone being sleepy:

  • avoid introducing new material; instead spend time revisiting and solidifying material you’ve already taught
  • if you absolutely have to introduce new material, borrow a page from Dr. Thiagi’s book and use teaching jolts
  • if you have the luxury of lead time, try flipping your class
  • try doing student-centered activities in class
    • ask open-ended questions that get students thinking about what you taught them and how they could apply it
      • variation: try a fishbowl activity to cover a handful of relevant discussion topics; you may look at controversial issues within the field (relating to what you taught) and get students to take a stand
    • try a role play or to engage with the information/skills that you previously taught
    • if you are in a room with movable desks, go for a layout that is more conducing to small-group collaboration.

Got ideas to share? Please do so, by leaving a comment below. Happy DST Monday!

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