How to Prepare for Daylight Saving Time

Posted by Darian Dozier on Sep 8, 2023 7:30:00 AM

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Although it's still a month away, Daylight saving time is around the corner. Once again, it's time to get ready for shorter days, longer nights, and a major shift to your sleeping pattern. Just because the time difference is only an hour, doesn't mean that it doesn't still have a significant impact on your ability to get a good night's rest for the first few weeks.

Normally in the spring, you "spring forward" and in the fall, you "fall back". This means that you'll either move your clock ahead one hour and wind it back an hour, respectively. This abrupt change can cause major sleep dysfunction within your household if you don't properly prepare for it. 

The change in the spring is subjectively harder than the change in the fall because you can have reduced sleep quantity and quality. However, in the fall, there is an overestimation of how much the extra hour can make up for lost sleep time when really long-term adjustment is needed to make up a sleep debt.    

There has been research that shows the association between daylight saving time and short-term health risks, like heart attacks, strokes, traffic accidents, emergency room visits, and mood disturbances. Part of this is due to the shift in your circadian rhythm, because of the change in light exposure. The circadian rhythm has profound effects on your overall well-being. 

The switch between daylight saving time and back should not be taken lightly. Here are a few tips for how to prepare for the change. 

Gradually adjust your schedule

The change between daylight saving time and the end of it is so abrupt, that it gives your body no time to adjust. However, you can start to change your personal schedule well before the beginning of daylight saving time. 

If you know that it's coming up, then use the week before to either fall asleep an hour earlier (spring) or an hour later (fall). This will help get your body adjusted to the new time before it takes place. This buffer can give you a bit of a cushion so your sleeping schedule is not completely taken out by the change.  

And this doesn't just include sleep, but your other nighttime activities like dinner, working out, spending time with family, etc. 

Sleep well before the change

Another way to prepare for the change is to ensure that you were already getting sufficient enough sleep prior to the change. It's hard enough going through the sleeping change, alone, but it's even harder going through it when you're already sleep deprived. 

The amount of sleep that is necessary differs by age, so it's important that you consistently get good sleep prior to the change. Without getting good sleep, you're more likely to experience even more ill-effects of the change. This could lead to issues with memory, cognition, attention, and other functions that are dependent on getting enough sleep (which is pretty much everything in your body). 

Plus, if you already are on a solid sleep schedule, the adjustment may not be as stark, as you'll have a little cushion that can handle a couple of days of sleep disruption. 

Use relaxation techniques

Re-adjusting your sleep schedule can be a bit stressful. Also, if you're sitting there unable to sleep, you may be concerned about how tired you're going to be the following day. This can lead to added stress that continues to keep you awake at night. 

So, learning some relaxation techniques can be helpful for easing your mind before going to sleep. These can include breathing exercises, yoga, stretching, and meditation. All of these activities are good for your mind and body, and can help take your mind to a place of peace.  

Set your clocks before bed

Most clocks automatically change at 2am (ET) that Sunday morning of the change. For your phones, you don't have to worry about making this adjustment, but for the rest of the clocks in your house, changing them before you go to bed can help you get back on schedule for the following day. You can avoid any confusion, timing mishaps, etc. 

Prioritize daylight exposure 

Make sure to get outside and get as much sun as possible. This is especially as important when the days get shorter. It's hard to stay motivated, energized, and in a good mood when the sun only seems to be about for eight hours a day. And all of those hours you're stuck inside. 

Getting outside and taking advantage of daylight when possible is important for your wellbeing, sleep schedule, and motivation. As soon as you wake up, turn on lights, open window shades, and avoid wearing sun glasses or anything that can block the sunlight from hitting your eyes directly. This light stimulates cortisol and can help you feel awake and ready to take on the day. 

Ease into your new schedule 

As you're preparing to take on your new schedule, make sure to give yourself some grace. This means don't overload your schedule for those first couple of days. Give yourself time to adjust with lighter days, later starts, and earlier finishes. You might even have to take a couple more breaks if you're struggling to concentrate and get through your tasks. 

Change your sleep hygiene 

Your sleep hygiene is the set of behaviors that you do before going to bed. It's vital to getting good sleep, and involves your sleeping environment and habits. If you have bad habits, such as scrolling on your phone late, going to bed at various times throughout the week, and late-night snacking, you may be in need of a serious facelift, in terms of your sleep hygiene. 

It's important that you sleep in a cold, dark, and quiet room. Once that is established, you can begin to focus on your nighttime activities like winding down from screen time, spending time with family, hygiene, and preparing for the next day. Look at your nighttime activities, and determine which ones could be inhibiting your ability to get a good night's rest. 

Take naps when necessary 

Last, but certainly not least, take a nap when you need to. Naps can help fulfil some of the sleeping requirements that you were unable to meet during the night. Your sleeping recommendations just have to happen during the day, but they can be broken up however you see fit.

Naps are best when they are shorter and earlier in the day. This stops them from interfering with your sleep at night. Naps also serve different purposes depending on their length. They should either be 30 minutes or an hour and a half to avoid disrupting NREM3 and REM sleep, which can leave you with sleep inertia, or feeling groggy and grumpy because of an interrupted sleep schedule. 

These don't have to be permanent additions into your daytime schedule, but may help with that adjustment period.   

If you struggle with sleep both during and after the time change, the issue may be more deep rooted. Please click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and talk with one of our sleep health professionals. 

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