Daylight Saving Time seems to come earlier every year. When we found out it’s going to be on Sunday, March 13 this year, some of us were happy (it stays light later in the day!) and others (mostly me) bemoaned the “lost hour” of sleep and the early morning darkness. If you’re not a morning person, “springing forward” sucks. Night owls usually spend a week or two in a battle with the snooze button, trying to compensate by sleeping in on the following weekend (it doesn’t work), and slogging through our morning routine waiting for our brains to wake up at 10 a.m.
There are real physical results to “losing” just one hour of sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the one-hour time change can have similar effects on your body as jet lag—including disrupted wake and sleep messages, insomnia, and it’s hard on the immune system. Research has found that heart attacks, traffic crashes, and workplace accidents increase just after the switch to daylight saving time.
It’s worse if you don’t plan ahead and you can fight it off if you start early! We have five tips to help you adjust:
Go to bed and wake up slightly earlier. For two weeks ahead of the time change, adjust your morning alarm 5-10 minutes earlier each day. Make an effort to go to bed just a little earlier each night. By the time you have to set your clocks earlier, it won’t feel like such a big difference.
Set weekend morning alarms. Just being more productive on the weekends ahead of the time change can signal your body that it’s time to start waking just a little earlier. Instead of lounging in bed on weekend mornings, hop to it, grab some coffee, and knock out a couple of things on your to-do list.
Step up (or begin) your exercise program. Use the time that you’re waking a little earlier to add to your fitness routine in the morning. Even adding 10-15 minutes to a workout will help you settle in at night a little earlier. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime!
Adjust your clock the day before. Set your clocks back on Friday night instead of Sunday to get used to the hour time change before your work week begins on Monday. (We know that most of our clocks these days change automatically, but you can set it temporarily ahead by an hour by choosing a different time zone…just don’t forget to change it back). That extra day can make a difference!
Change your caffeine intake. If you’re naturally a night owl, setting the clocks forward will feel great—at night. Mornings? Not so much. If you stop drinking caffeinated beverages 4-6 hours before bedtime, falling asleep will feel much more natural. For the hardcore insomniacs, you could try a low dose of melatonin an hour or so before bed.
The best time to prepare? NOW! Start tomorrow and in two weeks you’ll hardly notice that you lost an hour for Daylight Saving Time 2016. If you’re still lagging after the time change, consider using white noise, earplugs, or sleep shades that will help you fall asleep faster. Creating a sleep-friendly environment is one of the easiest changes you can make. Maybe you’ll even enjoy the light into the late evenings if you don’t feel like you’re missing out on sleep!