5 Tips to Help You Adapt to Daylight Savings Time and Improve Your Sleep Health
Sunday March 14th at 2:00am is the worst day of the year from a sleep coach’s perspective.
Months and months of work on my client’s sleep optimization plans were thrown out the window thanks to Daylight Savings Time (DST). Sleep science backs me up on this. One study found that the average person gets 40 minutes less sleep on the Monday after we ‘spring forward’ compared to other nights of the year. We are most vulnerable to sleep deprivation in early March during this transition from Standard Time to DST, and it can take some people up to a week to acclimate. Studies have shown that in some people, the misalignment of their circadian cycle due to DST can become a chronic condition.
Here are five strategies I’ve put together to help your body adapt to the time change:
- Avoid alcohol, heavy snacks, and caffeine four hours before bedtime today and tomorrow. These can disrupt the natural processes your body goes through to prepare for sleep, negatively affecting the quality of your sleep.
- Gradually adjust your bedtime over two to three days. Try waking up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual for two to three days to help your body adjust to DST more smoothly.
- Turn on bright lights in the morning. Because it’s going to be darker in the morning when we wake up, try turning on LED lights in your house to promote wakefulness artificially until the sun comes up. This will cue your body to “wake up” and start releasing alert hormones like cortisol.
- Spend more time outdoors. Exposure to natural light is the driving force behind our circadian rhythms, so extending your sunlight exposure can help alleviate feelings of tiredness during the day caused by the shift in time. Sunlight also suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone released in the evening to help you feel sleepy and ready for bed.
- Take a power nap. If you experience daytime sleepiness during the transition to DST, power naps are your friend. Aim for 10-15 minutes of rest in the mid-morning or early afternoon to release the sleep pressure that builds up during the day. This will give you a little extra pep to make it to bedtime.
Next week is statistically one of the most dangerous weeks of the year. DST cuts into our sleep, causing an increase in driving accidents and workplace injuries. Be extra careful on Monday. Practice mindfulness, and don’t underestimate the effects of sleep deprivation on your attentiveness. Be present and focused on what you are doing, and use these tips to prepare so you’re not as tired on Monday.”