Don’t Let Daylight Saving Time Ruin Your Sleep

Daffodils are blooming, temperatures are rising and days are getting longer – all sure signs of spring. But another, less welcome change is coming: At 2 a.m. Sunday, most people in the United States will set their clocks ahead one hour.

For many of us, this transition is more difficult than when we “fall back” in the fall, in part because we lose an hour of sleep, said Dr. Rachel Ziegler, a sleep medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Minnesota. .

“But actually, it's much more than that,” he said, because changing the clock also changes the times of sunrise and sunset. After we move forward, the mornings will be darker and the nights will be lighter, making it harder to wake up and fall asleep.

In fact, this can create a months-long mismatch between our internal clocks and our school and work schedules, leaving many people chronically sleep-deprived, said Dr. James Rowley, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. For this reason, the organization supports the complete elimination of daylight saving time, he added.

But for now we will have to move forward. Here's what you can do to make this change a little less painful.

One of the best ways to protect yourself against disruption is to get enough sleep (usually defined as seven hours or more if you're an adult) for at least a few nights before the time change, said Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep Study and Program. health research at the University of Arizona.

That way, “you will come from a place of strength,” not a lack of sleep, he said.

The time change can be especially difficult for those who wake up early during the week but sleep late on the weekend, Dr. Rowley said, creating what scientists call “social jet lag.” If you're one of those people, try to avoid sleeping in this weekend, he said, because the time change will add another hour of “jet lag.”

Starting at least a few days before the time change, try to go to bed and wake up about 15 minutes earlier each day, said Jade Wu, a sleep psychologist and researcher at Duke University School of Medicine. This can help ease the transition, she said.

“It's almost like you're cycling across time zones instead of flying across time zones,” he said.

Increasing meal timing in the same way can also help the body's internal clock adjust, Dr. Rowley said.

These incremental changes may be especially helpful for those who struggle with changes in routines, such as young children and adults with dementia, Dr. Wu said.

Consider planning some fun activities for Sunday, Dr. Wu said, especially if daylight saving time tends to make you feel irritable or depressed.

Spending time outdoors, exercising or socializing with friends can help prevent bad moods, Dr. Wu said. And having a more active day will likely help you fall asleep earlier on Sunday night, setting you up for a better Monday, he added.

For the days after the switch, try to get as much light as possible in the morning, Dr. Grandner suggested. The light tells your body that it's time to wake up, which can help you adjust to the new clock time, he added.

Open the blinds and sit by the window for a few minutes, or go for a morning walk, she said. If it's still dark when you wake up, turn on bright lights in your home or consider using a phototherapy lamp.

Caffeine can help you wake up and adjust to the morning time change, Dr. Ziegler said. But remember, you should also adjust to an earlier bedtime, so try to avoid consuming caffeine after 3 p.m., or earlier if you're sensitive to caffeine, he added.

Sometimes people are tempted to drink alcohol to fall asleep, Dr. Grandner said. But this strategy can backfire, as alcohol can cause you to wake up more frequently during the night, leading to less restful sleep.

If the daylight saving time transition leaves you sleep deprived, you may feel hungrier than usual or have more cravings for less healthy foods, said Frank Scheer, a neuroscientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. To help offset those cravings, plan to eat balanced, satisfying meals with plenty of fiber and protein for at least a couple of days after the jet lag, he said.

If daylight saving time sneaks up on you before you've had time to prepare, that's okay too, Dr. Wu said. “You just have to accept that you may feel really bad that first Monday.”

According to a 2019 online survey of about 2,000 American adultsMore than half said they felt “extremely” or “somewhat tired” after the spring time change.

If it helps you at all, Dr. Wu said, know that you are not alone.

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