How to Adjust to Daylight Saving Time Like a Pro

Ten ways to ease into Daylight Saving Time without losing sleep over it

By Andrea Pisani Babich

Daylight Saving Time will be here again and before you know it, most of the country will “spring ahead” one hour. Are you ready for it? Sure, you’re ready to enjoy those long spring and summer days, but are you ready to sacrifice one hour of sleep when you make the change?

Remember last spring? The morning after you set your clocks ahead, you felt as if you’d pulled an all-nighter, and the rest of the week you felt totally off your game. In fact, you were, literally, off your usual game.

When you set your clocks ahead, you did more than reset the time; you pushed your daily routine ahead, throwing your entire circadian rhythm off by an hour. Your body was still operating on Standard Time while the rest of society was an hour ahead of you. The cues your body uses to determine sleep and wake times, when to eat and drink, and work and leisure time were no longer synced with society’s schedule.

Yep, Daylight Saving Time is challenging for seasoned adults, but for kids it’s even worse. They don’t give a hoot about society’s schedule and strictly obey their bodily rhythms. Ask any mother of a two-year-old what happens when she messes with nap time. It’s not pretty. And getting them to bed at the right time according to the clock could be an exercise in total frustration – for everyone in the house.

This year, don’t let the Daylight Saving Time wreak havoc on the sleep schedules in your home. Be prepared for the time change so you and your kids can adjust seamlessly.

10 Tips for Adjusting Your Sleep for Daylight Saving Time

1. You got this.

The first step to preparing for the time change is to have the confidence that you will tackle this sleep disruption. Most people can make the adjustment in a week or two, and it should gradually get easier as those days (and nights) tick by. Think of it like a vacation to an eastern destination in the next time zone. If you were traveling, you’d make the adjustment in a few days because you would be surrounded by cues to the new normal. With a little bit of effort, you can do the same thing without traveling, which brings us to…

Tips 2, 3, 4, and 5. Give your body time to adjust gradually.

2. Shift your bedtime gradually. 

Divide the hour of sleep lost to Daylight Saving into smaller increments, and surrender it one small increment at a time. First, start with your baseline bedtime: 7 – 9 hours before you need to get up in the morning. Then, four nights before Daylight Savings Time kicks in, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than your normal bedtime. Subtract an additional 15 minutes for the next three nights until you reach your new bedtime an hour earlier than your Standard Time lights out. When you advance your clocks ahead by an hour, your body will want to go to sleep at the same time on the clock as it did before the time change. You can stretch this preparation out for two weeks week and keep the same earlier bedtime for a few nights. (This might be a luxury few of us can afford, but if you can, go for it!)

3. Shift your wake time gradually. 

If you adjust your bedtime without adjusting your wake time, you’ve simply given yourself an extra hour of sleep until Daylight Saving Time starts. While being well-rested will help you adjust, you won’t get the full benefit of your gradually adjusted bedtime unless you adjust your wake time too. Get out of bed 15 earlier than you need to and start your day as you normally do. Resist the urge to simply stay in bed. You can use that time to catch up on the news, check your email, or have a healthy, leisurely breakfast. How lovely would that be?!

4. Shift as many daily routines as possible. 

Don’t forget that other daily events give your body cues to wake and sleep times like:

  • Meal times
  • Evening snacks
  • The dog’s last walk of the day
  • Last check of your email (not in bed!)
  • Your bedtime routine 

Help your body be ready for the earlier bedtime by shifting these activities earlier as well. You can do it gradually along with your sleep and wake times.

5. Use your body’s natural response to light to help you adjust.

Light is the principal environmental cue to sleep and wake times. Exposure to light suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. You can help yourself wake up at the new time by increasing your bright light exposure as soon as you wake up. Open the bedroom blinds as soon as the sun begins to rise. Take an early morning walk (Fido says “yessss!”). Exposure to the movements of the sun is one of the best ways to reset your circadian rhythms. Turn on the lights in your bedroom. The light will signal to your brain that it’s time to be alert.

Conversely, darkness promotes the production of melatonin. Let your brain know it’s time to power down by dimming the lights in the evening. Darken your room completely when it’s time to go to bed, and use a nightlight for late night bathroom visits.

6. Enjoy strategic snoozes.

You may feel the effects of the time change for about a week. Taking a short power nap in the early afternoon can help take the edge off your fatigue. Experts recommend napping no longer than 20-30 minutes before 4:00 pm to avoid sleep inertia and disrupting your nighttime sleep.

7. Avoid sleep disruptors late in the day.

Your daily coffee intake can be a crucial ally in your battle with the time change. But a cuppa joe late in the day or after dinner can further interfere with your sleep. If you crave your after-dinner coffee, make sure you consume it at least 4 – 6 hours before bedtime. And don’t forget about other sources of caffeine like tea, chocolate, and colas. Alcohol and tobacco will also disrupt your sleep. You should avoid consuming them close to bedtime as well.

8. Combat fatigue without caffeine.

There are several ways to fight off that sluggish feeling after lunch without caffeine.

  • Skip the carbs at lunchtime. Eat protein instead.
  • Rub a drop of peppermint oil on your hands and pat on your face and neck for a natural energy boost from the essential oil.
  • Rosemary essential oil is also energizing. Keep a plant near your workplace, and rub a sprig between your fingers for a quick pick-me-up.
  • Chew peppermint or spearmint gum (sugarless, of course).
  • Get up from your desk and walk around for a few minutes to get your blood flowing.
  • Isometric exercises (tensing and relaxing muscles) will also increase blood flow.

9. Exercise regularly.

Exercise will help you sleep at the new time and wake up feeling refreshed.

10. Make sure you are well rested before making the switch.

Consistently getting the recommended 7 – 9 hours of sleep at night ensures you are not embarking on Daylight Saving Time with a sleep debt.

Helping Your Kids Adjust to the Time Change

Babies and children are more adaptable than adults, so they should adjust to Daylight Saving Time a little easier than you will. (Keyword: should.) But you can save them and you some frustrating mornings and bedtimes by helping them adjust gradually using Tips 2 through 5.

Just remember, unlike you, they don’t understand why all of their daily and nightly activities are happening earlier than they are ready for them. A little patience will go a long way in maintaining the peace. And if all else fails, you can push the reset button with a short nap.

You can also use Tips 1 through 5 for adjusting to Standard Time in the fall. Instead of shifting your schedule earlier, push your daily activities later gradually to prepare for the fall time change.

Drop us a line and let us know how your transition is going. And remember – longer days and pretty flowers are just around the corner.

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