Daylight Savings Time: How It Affects Seniors & How To Cope

Daylight savings time an how it affects seniors

Remembering when to set our clocks an hour ahead or an hour behind is difficult enough for the average person. Making such changes in the lives of seniors, especially those who already face the challenges of memory disorders, can have adverse effects.

When a senior relies on routine to get through the day, disrupting that routine in any way might create undue stress to their system. Therefore, knowing what to expect when Daylight Savings Time (DST) comes around is the best way to mitigate any issues arising from the time change.

First and foremost, how does Daylight Savings Time affect seniors? From disruption of sleep to physical health issues, it’s important to be aware of the risks to help keep seniors happy and healthy through the adjustment period as we enter into spring.

How Does Daylight Savings Time Affect Seniors?

When Daylight Savings Time was introduced, it allowed workers more hours of daylight in the evenings. It meant that individuals would lose an hour of sleep in the spring while they would gain one in the fall. Some argue that DST causes more challenges than solutions in modern society, but nothing has changed in how the US observes it.

In more recent years, studies have shown that people find that time changes disrupt their sleep patterns, affect their ability to follow daily routines, and cause underlying health issues. While these challenges present themselves to most individuals, they are especially difficult for seniors.

Sleep Disruptions

Changing the time to adhere to DST can create challenges with maintaining our usual sleeping patterns. Studies have shown that people lose as much as 40 minutes to an hour of sleep in the initial days after a time adjustment.

These disruptions can lead to other issues due to stress on our cognitive function. This becomes even more of a challenge for seniors who have dementia or other memory-related conditions.

Not being able to keep a typical sleep routine can lead to a decrease in memory strength. It creates a disconnect in our brains. When we are tired, we have a harder time getting thoughts to flow together coherently, which leads to confusion and frustration.

Exhaustion can also lead seniors to make medication mistakes and get physically hurt more often due to balance issues. While cognition is the go-to side-effect of sleep deprivation, it isn’t the only way that seniors’ lives can be negatively affected by DST.

Follow Daily Routines

As a result of sleep disruptions, our daily routines can also suffer. If we sleep later or don’t sleep well, we will be less motivated to stick to what we know.

This can be extra challenging for seniors with memory diagnoses because routine is what keeps them regulated and mentally stable. Not having the comfort and predictability of routine can lead to undo stress and depression.

Part of coping with dementia or Alzheimer’s is ensuring that significant changes don’t come along to upset the senior’s day activities. Changing the time can make it difficult for some to regulate their emotions as they adjust to the new routine.

While DST only occurs two times a year, that can still be highly disruptive and stressful for someone with such conditions. Many people with dementia or Alzheimer’s suffer from a condition called sundowning, where their cognition is diminished by the setting of the sun. Adjusting the time in the spring also affects those individuals’ sundowning condition, making it start sooner.

Cardiovascular and Physical Health Risks

The stress of creating a new routine centered on the recent time changes can do more than simply mess up our brain chemistry and cognition. It can also lead to more serious health conditions.

Confusion and exhaustion can lead to more stress on our bodies as they try to adjust. This means that it is more likely to suffer from such conditions as heart attacks, anxiety, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal issues.

Knowing what stress can do to your body is essential to keep in mind as you look toward future DST periods.

What Can We Do To Help?

Knowing how Daylight Savings Time (DST) can affect your loved ones is only half of what you need to make this period of transition a more positive one. Knowing how to help them cope with the effects of a time adjustment will allow them to diminish their stress levels.

We can assist our loved ones with their transition period during DST in many ways.

Adjust Sleep Schedule

Knowing that Daylight Savings Time comes around two times a year means we can look ahead and create a sleep schedule that can easily be adjusted. This will diminish the strain on sleeping patterns caused by the time adjustment.

There are going to be some instances of sleep deprivation and insomnia, no matter what we try to do to help. However, having a schedule in place helps lessen the adjustment period for our loved ones.

It is also important to keep your loved one away from caffeine or other sleep disruptors when DST comes along. Our brains naturally have trouble adjusting to the change, and adding substances into the mix will increase the transition period, especially for seniors.

Create an Adjustable Routine

Just like with the sleep schedule, having a routine that fits your senior loved one’s life outside of time constraints will help lessen the burden caused by DST. Routine will always be a source of regulation and comfort for seniors with memory conditions.

That concept works just as well for seniors without such conditions as well. In all honesty, an adjustable and flexible daily routine can be helpful for anyone who struggles with change.

Knowing what to expect helps relieve the burden of the unknown as our brains adjust to a new time.

Make Use of Valuable Daylight Time

For seniors who have dementia or Alzheimer’s and experience sundowning, making use of valuable time in the sun can help them adjust. Being active and alert during daylight hours is essential for seniors with memory conditions because it is when they are most likely to be themselves.

Family members being aware of this and knowing that DST adjustment periods limit their loved one’s cognitive abilities will go a long way toward helping them cope with the change. Being in the sun will give their senior’s natural rhythms time to work their magic and help their loved ones feel more aware.


The health benefits of exercise have long been documented. Exercise is the perfect solution to keep your systems regulated and healthy.

So, when something such as time change – which disrupts so much of our internal rhythms – comes along, the simplest way to keep your body in tempo is through exercise. For our senior loved ones, this will significantly benefit their mental health and cognitive ability as they adjust to new sleep patterns and possible insomnia.

Timing our exercises correctly for the correct times of day can allow our bodies to adjust to the new sleep patterns more quickly. Exercising, such as cardio in the evening, will enable us to work up a sweat and become exhausted if we have difficulties falling asleep. If we are struggling with cognition in the mornings, doing some yoga and mild stretching can give our brains an adjustment period to wake up more and function better for our other daily activities.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Ultimately, stress is a big concern for the transition period just before and immediately after Daylight Savings Time. Knowing the best techniques to help our senior loved ones relax will go a long way toward ensuring they have a stress-free DST.

Activities such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and hobbies are easy ways to help our loved ones adjust. These techniques will allow them to focus on what they can control and not worry about what they can’t, such as the time change.

Doing things they love will also release endorphins in their brain that keep their mental health positive, diminishing the chances of stress-related conditions occurring.

Ultimately, it all comes down to what works best for our loved ones and how we can best adjust their lives to eliminate the adverse side effects of Daylight Savings Time.

Accessible Is Here To Guide You

Another way to help your senior with life adjustments brought on by Daylight Savings Time is through professional help. Whether this means seeking a doctor for advice or looking into home care for your loved one, we can’t always meet these challenges alone.

Accessible is here to assist you with any questions or concerns. Our caregivers are available to help your family in whatever capacity works best for your loved one. Contact us today for more information