The long practice of daylight saving time (DST) involves setting the clocks forward 1 hour from standard time during the summer months and back again in the fall to make better use of natural daylight.
Gaining an hour of sleep can be beneficial in the fall, but losing an hour of sleep in the spring can interrupt your body’s rhythm.
We’ve put together some tips to help you master the time switch and minimize its impact on your sleep and overall health.
“The sudden change in clock time every 6 months has an adverse effect on sleep duration and quality,” says Anne Marie Morse, an associate professor at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Pennsylvania.
According to Morse, a pediatric neurologist and a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, changing the time twice per year can negatively impact sleep quality and duration.
Morse adds that traffic accidents increase in the first few days following the time change, increasing fatal traffic accidents by up to 6 percent in the United States. This may be due to the negative impact that changing the clocks can have on sleep.
One 2020 review found an 18 percent increase in adverse medical events related to human error after the switch. Another
Here’s how you can try to minimize the negative impact of DST.
When it comes to DST, planning ahead is crucial, Morse says.
She recommends adjusting your sleep schedule in the days leading up to DST, so it’s less of a shock to your system.
Here are a few tips:
- Go to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier each night for up to 4 nights before the time change.
- Adjust the timing of other daily routines that provide time cues to your body, such as meals, exercise, and medications.
- Set your clocks ahead 1 hour in the early evening on Saturday, then go to sleep at your regular bedtime.
- Stick to your usual bedtime on Sunday to get plenty of rest before the workweek begins on Monday following the time change.
If you find it particularly hard to adjust to the time change, consider taking melatonin to help regulate your internal clock.
Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body that lets you know when it’s time for sleep.
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Talk with your doctor or medical professional before adding melatonin to your nightly sleep routine.
In the same way that you practice good physical hygiene, it’s essential to practice good sleep habits.
Poor sleep hygiene can make it more challenging to fall asleep. Throw in the time change, and getting quality sleep can get even trickier.
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- Choose a regular bedtime. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
- Create an environment conducive to sleep. This includes making sure the bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Get rid of screens. Turn off screens and all electronic devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones before bed.
- Don’t eat or drink too late. Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
One of the reasons DST can have such a profound effect on your sleep is because it shifts your internal clock.
Your body naturally has daily cycles, called circadian rhythms, that tell you when to sleep and perform other biological processes.
Switching the clocks for DST results in more darkness in the morning and more light in the evening, disrupting your body’s natural rhythm.
Luckily, exposure to sunlight is one easy way to help reset your internal clock naturally, according to
“Sunlight and other bright light exposure from the time of waking to the early afternoon can help to adjust your circadian rhythm to daylight saving time,” Morse says.
So, the Sunday morning after DST, lace up a pair of sneakers and go for a walk, run, or hike with family or friends, and soak in some vitamin D. Exercise can also help you fall asleep more easily at night.
If getting outside for 30 minutes of sunlight isn’t an option, make sure to open blinds and curtains first thing in the morning.
Work from home? If the space is available, position your desk or workspace close to a window to allow you to take in those rays.
For many, the idea of losing sleep can be daunting. You may find it even harder to fall asleep as you lie in bed and stress about the sleep you’re not getting.
Try some relaxation techniques the night of the time change to help you fall asleep. Here are a few techniques that may help.
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While there are many types of meditation, focusing on your breathing is a great way to start.
Listening to music at bedtime can help people fall asleep quicker and improve sleep quality, according to a 2020 study by the University of New South Wales in Australia.
In addition, music can help induce relaxation and a sleepier state. Start by incorporating music into your bedtime routine and listening to music about 45 minutes before bedtime.
While DST can interfere with your internal clock, planning ahead can reduce the effects of losing an hour of sleep.
Start by gradually shifting your schedule in the days before DST. Practice good sleep habits, consider taking melatonin, get outside, and make sure to expose yourself to some sunshine to help reset your internal clock.
Finally, the night before DST, try to relax before bedtime so you can prime yourself for a good night’s rest.