Daylight Saving Time is right around the corner. On Sunday, March 10, 2019, we will spring our clocks forward an hour and enjoy a little more precious sunlight in the evenings. Initially, you may feel excited to see some extra daylight during your commute home from work and enjoy getting some of your daytime back, but there are a few downfalls that accompany the time change as well.
Any time we have to turn the clocks forward or backward, our bodies and schedules can be affected. We become so accustomed to our routines that adjusting our lives—even if it’s only by an hour—can have a significant impact, mainly because of its effects on our sleep schedule. If there’s one vital component to our well-being, it’s our relationship with consistent, high-quality sleep.
Instead of letting Daylight Saving Time drain your energy this year, prepare early so you can handle the time change like a seasoned pro.
Clear your sleep debt in advance
If you go into the time change with an already subpar sleep schedule, then you’ll be at a strong disadvantage. Start getting your sleep in control now so you don’t have to worry about your sleep debt racking up.
Conduct a quick check-up on your sleep quantity and quality. Ideally, you should be getting around seven to nine hours of sleep each night. You’ll also want to make sure you’re achieving quality rest in that time. If you toss and turn throughout the night, wake up feeling like you hardly slept, or have aches and pains in the morning, these are signs your sleep is suffering.
Start shifting bedtime
You can choose to allow the one-hour time difference to hit you on the morning of March 10, or you can prepare in advance by breaking that hour up into small schedule adjustments leading up to the time change.
If you can afford the luxury of going to bed earlier in the evenings for two weeks leading up to Daylight Saving Time, this will be best, but not everyone has the flexibility to do so. Plan to start adjusting your bedtime at least four days before Daylight Saving Time. This year, that’s March 6.
On the first day, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than your regular bedtime. On the second day, make it 30. On the third night, you should head to bed 45 minutes early. Then, the day before the change you’re already adjusted to the hour time difference.
Shift wake time accordingly
Moving your bedtime earlier in the evening will be meaningless if you neglect to also adjust your wake time. If you’re going to sleep 15 minutes earlier than your normal bedtime, you should wake up 15 minutes before your normal wake time. Be sure you consistently match your adjusted wake time with your adjusted bedtime. If you don’t, you’ll spoil yourself with extra sleep time and defeat the purpose of preparing for the time change.
Lean on your body’s natural response to light
You may not know that your body’s natural sleep/wake cycles are affected by exposure to light. When your eyes take in light sources, it sends a signal to decrease the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes our sleep. This signal is what helps our bodies understand that during the day, we should be awake and during the night, we should be asleep.
During Daylight Saving Time, you will be exposed to more light in the evening, and this may affect your sleep/wake cycle. Springing the time forward also means you lose an hour of sunlight in the morning, which may make it more difficult to wake up. When you understand how your body responds to light changes, you can take advantage of light sources within your control to help you adjust to the change.
To make falling asleep easier in the evenings, you will want to limit your exposure to light sources. Hang up black out curtains to darken your bedroom for a better night’s sleep or use an eye mask to send you into a dark oasis. Conversely, you should utilize the power of the light to help you wake up in the mornings. With one hour of sunlight lost, you may need a little help. Consider using a wake-up light that mimics the rising of the sun and increasingly lights up in your room according to your desired wake time. Turning on a bedside lamp as soon as you wake up or taking outdoor morning walks can also make waking up a little less painful.
Avoid a caffeine dependency
Tempting as it may be, you should avoid doubling up on your regular coffee intake to get you through those first few days of the time change. It’s better if you allow your body to naturally adjust to the new time rather than overloading your system with caffeine to get you through. In fact, this can actually make your situation worse, especially if you’re consuming caffeine in the last four to six hours before bedtime because it can inhibit your sleep.
Instead of relying on caffeine, find natural ways to boost your energy during the day. Fill your lunches with healthy proteins and vegetables rather than carbs and processed foods. Get your blood flowing by getting up and moving around or doing isometric exercises where you tense and relax your muscles. You can even utilize the benefits of essential oils like peppermint and rosemary to give you the boost you need. Using natural remedies for your energy will lead your body to adjust more quickly than it would by using caffeine as a crutch.
Better sleep hygiene
To enhance your sleep, prepare a wind-down routine to help calm your body and mind before bed. Your routine may include light stretches, reading a book, taking a warm bath, using essential or CBD oils, or any other calming tactics. You should also be sure your lifestyle habits align with what’s necessary for achieving quality sleep each night. Follow a healthy diet, avoid over-consuming caffeine, and exercise daily.
Still struggling to adjust?
If you check all these boxes and still struggle to achieve better sleep, there may be an underlying issue stealing your sleep: your mattress. Check for the signs you need a new mattress, including tossing and turning, waking up sore, or noticing lumps or sags in your bed. Keep in mind that you’re due for an upgrade every seven to ten years, so if you’ve had your mattress for more than ten years, it’s definitely time to start looking for a new one. Don’t know where to start? Check out Mattress Advisor to find the best mattress for you.
Your sleep is important, so you should take it seriously. Making efforts to improve your sleeping habits before the time change will give you the head start you need to tackle the change. By properly preparing for Daylight Saving Time, you’ll be able to wake up on March 10 and barely even notice the time change.