Daylight saving time: The reason you wake up twice a year confused about what time it is and generally just feeling...off. Whether it's "springing forward" in March or "falling back" in November, DST can screw with your sleep schedule. But adjusting to the time change doesn't have to be difficult.
Unless you're prepared, that is. Instead of letting the time change sneak up on you, follow these tips from a sleep expert in the days leading up to DST to help your body and mind more easily adjust.
Daylight saving time starts at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March (March 13, 2022), when clocks are set forward and you "lose" an hour of sleep.
Aside from the fact that you're left with one fewer hour of R&R and time to get things done on Sunday, you'll also probably struggle to go to bed at your normal time.
For instance, if you typically go to bed at 10 p.m., now your body is telling you to stay up until 11 p.m. — and you might do it! Then on Monday, you have to wake up to go to work or school. And that's where the trouble starts, because we're already living in an incredibly sleep-deprived world.
"Losing that hour of sleep is actually worse on an already sleep-deprived brain. The number-one time for motor vehicle accidents is after when we lose an hour of sleep.
It's true: In a January 2020 report in Current Biology , spring daylight saving time increased fatal car accidents by 6 percent, and that uptick lasts for the entire week following the time change. (A full 28 fatal accents might be prevented each year if daylight saving time didn't exist, according to the paper.)
Not only that, but this time shift can also affect brain function, decreasing energy and alertness, notes a November 2019 paper in JAMA Neurology .
Bottom line: It's not "just an hour," but something that can affect your health and safety in big ways.
How to Adjust to Daylight Saving Time Without Losing Sleep
Because DST is coming for us and is happening — no matter how loud the cries to do away with it — you can take matters into your own hands and try to reduce your burden of exhaustion.
DST can be tough because it creates a misalignment in your circadian rhythm. So, here's what you do: Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night in the four days leading up to daylight saving time. It's an entirely practical strategy that sleep experts recommend in general, but is especially important if you have kids, to make the transition easier on them, too.
Here's what that might look like if you typically go to bed at 10 p.m.:
Wednesday: Bedtime at 9:45 p.m.
Thursday: Bedtime at 9:30 p.m.
Friday: Bedtime at 9:15 p.m.
Saturday: Bedtime at 9 p.m.
Inching your sleep schedule backward a bit day-by-day will make adjusting to the time change feel more seamless. It's easier to go to bed 15 minutes earlier than trying to make yourself go to bed at (what feels like) an hour earlier on Sunday night when you're still wired.
Set a nighttime alarm to remind yourself to head to bed, and build in some extra time to wind down and get ready.
Make sure you're setting your alarm to wake up 15 minutes earlier as well, otherwise you haven't actually shifted your sleep-wake schedule and you'll still be in for the shock of an early Monday morning.
So if you typically wake up at 6 a.m., here's what time you should set your alarm for daylight saving:
Thursday: Wake up at 5:45 a.m.
Friday: Wake up at 5:30 a.m.
Saturday: Wake up at 5:15 a.m.
Sunday: Wake up at 6 a.m. (because you've "lost" an hour overnight)
7 Tips to Help You Adjust to DST
Adjusting to daylight saving time can be tricky. Beyond tweaking your bedtime and wake-up times, experts suggests doing the following to help you make the shift without sacrificing quality sleep:
Make your bedroom dark and cool. Block out any early morning light that might disrupt your sleep, and keep the temperature between 60 and 67° F so you can slumber comfortably, per the National Sleep Foundation.
Head outdoors in the early morning. Stand outside without sunglasses and look in the general direction of the sun for 15 minutes, Even better if you add in some kind of outdoor exercise, like a walk or jog around the block. (or join our Bodysculpt on Wednesday at 9:30 am in the park!
Go barefoot for a bit. If the grass or sidewalk isn't too chilly, take off your shoes and stand in your bare feet. The technique — called grounding or earthing — may help better regulate your body clock.
Get some exercise. It can improve your sleep quality, even if it's just 20 minutes of cardio and some stretching. Just don't do your workout too close to bedtime or you may be too amped to get to sleep. Join me here for on line workouts!
Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. Both can disrupt your sleep. Aim to nix caffeine after about noon, and if you drink alcohol, keep your intake to a minimum and stop drinking a few hours before bed.
Turn off screens an hour before bed. The blue light from devices like your phone or TV can mess with your sleep, per the National Sleep Foundation.
Wind down before sleep. This part might look different for everyone, but the point is to create a routine that signals to your body that it's time to hit the hay. Taking a warm shower, reading and/or stretching are all good ways to ease into bedtime.