Big news for people who dread the twice annual timeshift for Daylight Saving Time (read: everyone): In August, the Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) called for the end of Daylight Saving Time, saying we’d all be healthier and safer if we ditched the practice.
But until that glorious day arrives, we’ll need to continue to change the clocks twice a year, which may leave you feeling groggy and off-kilter.
“Sleep-wake rhythms are an orchestra—a nice symphony—in the body,” says Abhinav Singh, MD, faculty director of the Indiana Sleep Center and member of the National Sleep Foundation medical advisory board.
If a perfect sleep cycle is Beethoven, a time change is a heavy metal concert. Suddenly, your circadian rhythm—your body’s internal clock, which dictates sleep-wake cycles, body temperatures, hunger levels, and hormonal activities—gets all out of whack.
But there are ways to get something positive out of it—or at least, weather the transition without letting it upend your life so completely.
For starters, “it’s a great opportunity to add that hour of sleep,” says sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, fellow of The AASM, and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan.
Here, Drs. Singh and Breus share tips on how best to “fall back.”
1. Don’t stay up late the Saturday night before.
Even though we gain an hour, most of us don’t use it well. But that’s human nature, Dr. Singh says.
“People have a habit of saying, ‘Oh, I have another hour to watch Netflix because I’m going to sleep more.’ Then what they end up doing is taking their tablets or laptops into bed at night, and suddenly they’ve overshot their budget very easily,” he says.
And it’s not just that you’re up later than you intended—the glowing light from your screen will delay your circadian rhythm and make it both harder to fall asleep, and have deep, restful sleep once you do.
But even if you can’t fall asleep early, opt for a restful activity, like listening to a meditation app, advises Dr. Singh. Having a screen-free wind-down routine before bed (no Netflix allowed!) leads to better sleep, so you’ll feel well-rested the following day.
2. Tweak your alarm.
Instead of shifting your bedtime and wake-up time on the day when daylight saving time ends, start three days in advance—this will help you slowly tip-toe into the transition, instead of plunging in overnight.
There are two ways to approach this ease-in strategy: Either set your AM alarm, and sleep in an extra 15 minutes each day. Or shift your bedtime so that you go to sleep 15 minutes later each night. Either option works, but Dr. Breus recommends adjusting your morning walk-up time.
3. Take advantage of sunlight.
Yes, you gain an extra hour. But there’s a downside to the close of daylight saving time: Sunset comes earlier.
The AASM recommends getting outside in the bright, sunny AM hours to help your body adjust to the time change. So the Sunday after the time shift, make plans to go for a long walk or run or eat lunch outdoors in a park.
“Don’t skimp on bright sunlight, especially during that fall-back period,” Dr. Singh says.
4. Don’t mess with your schedule.
Meals and social time are all cues for your circadian clock. Use them to help your body get back on track. This means sticking with your usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner times in the days following the close of Daylight Saving Time.
And keep up with your workouts, too. Aim for 25 minutes of cardio every day, Dr. Breus suggests, to wear you out and keep you from counting sheep at night.
5. Get more vitamin D & melatonin.
Another option: Take a dose of melatonin two hours ahead of your bedtime, which may help your body slow down before bed. Do this in the days immediately following the time shift for an easier transition.
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