Who’s ready for longer days spent outside without having to bundle up to stay warm? Now, who’s ready to lose an hour of sleep this weekend? Sadly, you can’t have one without the other. The second Sunday of March marks the transition from Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time, meaning we set our clocks forward an hour and “lose” an hour of sleep.
An hour might not seem like a big deal, especially on a Sunday, but researchers have noticed some concerning trends correlating with the transition. Heart attacks and strokes, car accidents, and incidents of mood disorders all tend to see an increase in the days immediately following the time change. Some scientists go so far as to argue that the time change causes a biological misalignment for the full eight months of Daylight Saving Time. Luckily, there are some simple solutions to account for some of the potential causes of the negative effects tied to the annual jump forward in time.
- ADJUST YOUR LIGHT CUES
When we “spring forward,” we’re shifting an hour of daylight from the morning to the end of the day. That’s what makes summer days seem longer and can bring a refreshing opportunity for outdoor evening activities, but it also means you might be waking up in the dark for a while. The first Monday after shifting your clock ahead might be especially challenging, as you not only “lose” an hour of sleep, but you also potentially lose the sunlight that has cued morning.
Light is the main time cue for resetting our circadian rhythm every 24 hours. When we change our clocks by an hour to “move” light, our circadian rhythm gets out of sync. This happens because light suppresses your body’s ability to produce melatonin, a substance that helps you fall asleep. One way to help your body adjust to the change is to get as much exposure to light as possible during the day and to avoid bright lights when it’s dark outside, according to WebMD.
- PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE
You’re unlikely to hear anyone complaining about the extra hour of sunlight in the evening, but how often have you heard someone refer to the Daylight Saving Time adjustment as the night you lose an hour of sleep? While quantity of sleep matters, quality sleep is just as important. By setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep, you can counter some of the negative effects that come with the first few days of Daylight Saving Time. WebMD recommends creating a sleep-friendly environment by limiting alcohol consumption, exercising (but not too close to bedtime), creating bedtime rituals, and wearing sleep ear plugs and an eye mask. Flents has a number of options for ear plugs, and the Super Sleep Kit includes both ear plugs and eye masks.
- MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE
Though studies are limited, there’s some evidence that the number of visits to emergency rooms for mental health reasons increase right after Daylight Saving Time starts. To a lesser extreme, experts have made connections between Daylight Saving Time and incidence of insomnia in some people. Even if you don’t experience significant mental effects of changing the clocks, you might still feel generally grumpy from the decreased sleep. Be sure to take some time for yourself during and following Daylight Saving Time weekend. Make time to watch a movie or read a book, go for a leisurely walk, or take a bubble bath. Give yourself time to relax rather than trying to accomplish a long to-do list.
- PLAN FOR A POTENTIAL PRODUCTIVITY SLUMP
Speaking of giving yourself a break with your to-do list, consider that you might not feel as motivated as usual. It’s hard to be productive when you feel sleepy, and one study found that the average person receives 40 fewer minutes of sleep the Monday after Daylight Saving Time begins in March. Another study suggested that employees who don’t get enough sleep spend more time using the Internet for personal use and entertainment while pretending to work.
You might not be able to take time off work, and we don’t necessarily recommend using your work time to watch YouTube videos or online shop, but you can plan ahead for what might be a less productive day. Try not to schedule important meetings immediately following the time change. If you have a deadline the week of Daylight Saving Time, consider getting the bulk of the work done in advance, before you lose the extra sleep.
- GET OUTSIDE
Because our circadian rhythms are tied to light, getting outside can help you adjust to Daylight Saving Time. Being outside in natural sunlight can reset your internal clock and suppress the production of melatonin. Besides, after being cooped up inside all winter, the fresh air might help give you a little energy and mood boost.
- ADJUST YOUR SCHEDULE GRADUALLY
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends taking precautions ahead of Daylight Saving Time, including getting at least seven hours of sleep the night before the change and gradually waking up earlier than usual for two to three days ahead of time. The Cleveland Clinic recommends doing this for a full week before moving your clock forward. The Sleep Foundation suggests setting your alarm for about 15-20 minutes earlier each day.
- TAKE A (SHORT) NAP
This suggestion may seem like a no-brainer given the issue at hand is a lack of sleep: nap! The Sleep Foundation says short naps throughout the day can help you feel refreshed after losing sleep at night. In fact, planning to nap may be better than allowing yourself to sleep in Sunday morning right after the time change. The key is to keep naps to no longer than 20 minutes to prevent sleep inertia that can leave you feeling more groggy than refreshed. A long nap might also prevent you from getting a full night’s sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Getting exercise – especially outside – can help you get better sleep and offer much-needed exposure to natural light. Not only that, but exercise can give you an energy boost when you’re feeling sluggish. So lace up those tennis shoes and hit the trail – you’ll feel better, sleep better, and get to enjoy the spring weather!
- CUT DOWN ON SCREEN TIME
When you’re feeling tired or run down, it might be relaxing to watch television or browse the Internet on your phone. However, the blue light emitted from these screens can stimulate your brain and make it harder to fall asleep. Try to turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before going to bed to help get the best sleep possible when you need it most.
- GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE
Daylight Saving Time can mess with your energy and mood any year, but it can be especially trying this year. Recognize that you might not be feeling your best in the next few days and allow yourself to take it a little slower. You work hard taking care of yourself and your family; you deserve to take it easy through a rough transition like the change to Daylight Saving Time.
Sleep Foundation: Daylight Saving Time
Health: 7 Ways Daylight Saving Time Can Affect Your Health
Science Daily: Daylight Saving Time Has Long-Term Effects on Health
WebMD: How Sleep Is Affected by Time Changes
Augusta University: Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Mental Health? Augusta University Investigated
American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Health Advisory: Daylight Saving Time
Cleveland Clinic: Daylight Saving Time: 4 Tips to Help Your Body Adjust
HealthPartners: 6 Tips to Help You Spring Forward in 2021
Everyday Health: Why Exercise Boosts Mood and Energy