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Caring for the Older Adults

Daylight Savings Impacts More Than The Clock

Tilted clock representing Daylight savings time

By Holly Carlson MS, RN, CCRN

Each spring and fall every state but Hawaii and Arizona change times. Clocks are moved 1 hour ahead in the spring and turned back 1 hour in the fall. People generally appreciate an extra hour of sleep in the fall but begrudge the loss of that hour of sleep in the spring.

Daylight savings originally began during World War I to conserve fuel that produced power. To date, advocates of daylight savings promote the energy savings, increased time for outdoor activity, reduction in traffic accidents and a reduction in crime. Critics of daylight savings do not feel like the benefits outweigh the adverse effects.

Generalized Effects of Daylight Savings

The fall time change is directly associated with:

  • Mood changes
  • The trigger for seasonal affect disorder
  • An increase in fatal auto accidents
  • An increase in auto-pedestrian accidents
  • Heart attacks
  • Perception of body temperature
  • Social jet lag

Social jet lag comes with steep consequences if it goes unchecked. The consequences include:


  • Caffeine use
  • Alcohol use
  • Occurrence of depression
  • Levels of anxiety
  • Insulin use in people with diabetes


  • Cognitive and academic function

Effects in Memory Care

Although it does not seem like a change of 1 hour in time would make much difference, the impact on cognitive and academic performance is measurable. Students, for example, experience anxiety and loss of focus from circadian rhythm changes that they may not be aware of. This impact can result in a downward drift in performance.

Cognitive changes can affect people of any age, but has greater implication in memory care. People living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementias are affected by the time change in nearly every aspect of their day. The change in circadian rhythm can affect people with cognitive disorders in any or all the following ways:

  • Increased sleep disruption which decreases sleep quality
  • New onset or an increase occurrence of depressive events
  • Deterioration of memory
  • Increased agitation
  • Changes in ability to complete ADLs


It can be challenging to care for people who experience cognitive changes even without any help from a disruptive time change. Here are some solutions to help decrease the consequences of the change:

  • Use blue light therapy daily.
  • Increase physical activity so that the person is tired at bedtime.
  • Minimize napping.
  • Keep naps to 20 minutes.
  • Keep the environmental temperature warm.
  • Minimize caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Move bedtime by 10-15-minute intervals before the time change.

Creating smooth transitions in life for people who have Alzheimer’s or other types of dementias is difficult. However, daylight saving occurs every year at the same time which provides an opportunity to minimize the effects of change for ourselves and the people who rely on us.

Holly Carlson MS, RN, CCRN is a freelance writer and owner of HDC Consulting.  Holly is a registered nurse with 25 years of healthcare experience in both acute and post-acute healthcare environments. Her experience includes direct care, organizational leadership, facility management, and organization culture development.


Ferguson, S. A., Preusser, D. F., Lund, A. K., Zador, P. L., & Ulmer, R. G. (1995). Daylight saving time and motor vehicle crashes: the reduction in pedestrian and vehicle occupant fatalities. American journal of public health, 85(1), 92–95.

Roenneberg, T., Winnebeck, E. C., & Klerman, E. B. (2019). Daylight Saving Time and Artificial Time Zones – A Battle Between Biological and Social Times. Frontiers in physiology, 10, 944.

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