Daylight Saving Time: 7 Tips to Help Senior Adults Adjust

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It’s March and that means daylight saving time and spring are right around the corner!

First conceived by Benjamin Franklin, the primary purpose of daylight saving time is to make better use of daylight. And for many of us, daylight saving time means we have more hours of daylight in the evening to enjoy the more pleasant weather.

However, for senior adults, daylight savings can also spell health problems.

Daylight Saving Time Can Negatively Affect Seniors’ Health

 According to AgingCare.com, “It's important to keep in mind how even a tiny time change can affect your health  – particularly if you're older or suffering from a chronic illness. The biggest problem that seniors have with daylight saving time is loss of sleep.”

Recent studies have shown that the March daylight saving time change – with clocks moved one hour ahead  – can affect seniors’ well-being in several ways, including:

  • Sleep difficulties: The biggest problem following the March daylight saving time change is the interruption in regular sleep patterns. Researchers say that even a small change in older adults’ sleep schedules can affect their natural circadian rhythms and lead to grogginess and loss of mental acuity. This, in turn, can increase the risk of falls and self-medication errors.
  • Increased heart attack risk: According to a 2008 study, heart attack rates rise by about five percent in the days after the March daylight saving time change. Interestingly, the same research showed that there is a subsequent decline in heart attack occurrences in the fall, when the clocks are turned back.
  • Higher car accident rates: Daylight saving time also appears to be the cause of a spike in automobile accident rates. According to Canadian researchers, the Monday morning immediately following the March daylight saving time change has seen as many as 17 percent more fatal car crashes than usual. Although experts aren't in agreement as to exactly why this occurs, many speculate that the phenomenon stems from an increase in sleepy drivers and those running late for work.

“Because of the challenges older Americans face with the start of daylight savings, it is imperative that they and their caregivers familiarize themselves with the health risks involved and take proper steps to reduce or eliminate them,” says Colleen Dwyer, RN, BSN, NHA, Executive Director and Administrator of Bryn Mawr Terrace in Bryn Mawr, PA. “The good news is that there are several ways that seniors can adjust to the daylight savings time change and minimize the risks to their health and safety.”

From the Experts: 7 Ways Seniors Can Adjust to Daylight Saving Time

Harneet Walia, MD,Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cleveland Clinicand Matthew Mingrone, MDlead physician for EOS Sleep California Centers, offer some useful tips that can help seniors to “spring forward” successfully when daylight saving time begins in March.

1. Start preparing ahead of time –Seniors can prepare for daylight savingsby going to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier than their usual bedtime. This will give them extra sleep time to make up for the lost hour.

2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol – Coffee, other caffeinated drinks and alcohol are major sleep disruptors and seniors should avoid them around the time change.

3. Maintain a consistent sleep routine – Sticking to a regular sleep pattern, i.e., not varying the times when you go to bed and wake up in the morning, can help to keep seniors’ internal sleep cycles on track, despite the time change.

4.   Don’t take naps – Seniors should also avoid naps before the start of daylight saving time. Being tired will help you fall asleep easier. If you have to take a nap, try to take it early and for no more than 20 minutes.

5. Get some exercise and some sun -- Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, jogging, biking or swimming in the late afternoon or early evening can help older adults to fall asleep easier. Also, researchers say that exposure to natural sunlight helps to regulate the body's natural rhythms.

6. Maintain a healthy sleep environment –Good “sleep hygiene” is also very important for senior adults. Therefore, make sure your sleep environment is dark enough, cool enough and quiet enough when it’s time for bed.  

7. Use the bed only for sleeping– Finally, seniors should avoid watching TV, eating and even reading in bed as this can create problems in falling asleep. Sleep experts say our minds adjust to the habit of getting into bed for sleep, so adjust your habits accordingly.

By following these tips from sleep experts, you can “spring forward” with confidence and have the energy to enjoy the extended daylight hours and warmer weather to the fullest.  

For more helpful senior living and senior care information, we invite you to read our monthly articles and tips on a variety of important senior health topics. We also welcome you to stop in for a tour to see for yourself why we’ve been rated “Best in Senior Care.”

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog on Daylight Saving Time: 7 Tips to Help Seniors Adjust, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

A Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

There are times when the challenges associated with advanced age, a prolonged illness or a chronic condition make 24-hour care and support a necessity. At Bryn Mawr Terrace, we’re always here for you and your family. Our compassionate, professional team treats our residents as family and respects each of them as the individuals they are, all with their own unique life story.

We understand that each one of our residents has unique needs and desires, so we deliver personalized care and services that are tailored to each individual. The amenities and activities offered within our community are designed to keep our residents happy, fulfilled and living well. From delicious dining to a variety of social programming, we offer a lifestyle that’s meant to be lived!

Located near Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr Terrace – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has provided exceptional care and services to seniors and their families since 1966. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Bryn Mawr Terrace serves as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC),

offering a range of services – including short-term rehabilitationtraditional nursing careindependent living, personal carememory carerestorative care and respite care – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing. 

For more information on Bryn Mawr Terrace and our variety of needs-based lifestyle services, please call us at 610.525.8300 or contact us online.

 Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.


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