Setting your clock forward an hour at 2 am on Sunday, March 10 this year marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. Your sleep cycle can be affected as you lose an hour of precious sleep. Changing the time when we go to bed and wake up causes our internal clocks to become out of sync. This seemingly small one-hour shift in the sleep cycle can affect sleep patterns for up to a week. It is thought that springing forward is tougher on our bodies then falling back. Losing an hour of sleep in spring can make you feel groggy and could have a serious impact on your mood, motor skills, appetite, and even your heart. It has been associated with increased heart attacks and traffic and workplace accidents.
In particular, if you are a night owl, sleep deprived or have a sleep disorder, you can be seriously impacted by that one hour loss of sleep.
Here are some ways we can adjust to daylight savings before it starts:
- Dim the lights earlier on nights leading up to the time change.
- Encourage everyone in your family to try going to sleep 15 minutes earlier every night starting 4 days prior to the time change to make the transition less abrupt so that when Sunday arrives, you will already be adjusted. Otherwise, that lost hour of sleep can make it very difficult to get up Monday morning for school and work. This is especially important for teens who drive themselves to school.
Here are some ways we can adjust to daylight savings after it happens:
- Do not sleep in on Sunday morning, rather stick to your normal weekday sleep schedule on the weekend. We often shift our sleep schedules on the weekend anyway, going to bed later and getting up later. When you add daylight savings to the mix, it makes it even harder to wake up Monday morning,"
- Take a short nap Sunday so you feel more rested on Monday morning.
- If possible, spend at least an hour outside in sunlight on Sunday to advance your body clock.
- Get up as late as you possibly can without being late on Monday, to give yourself precious extra minutes of sleep. A cup of coffee may help.
- Sit near sunlight Monday morning—sun sets the internal clock forward.
- For children, cut infants' and toddler's nap times by about one-third over the weekend to prepare them for an earlier bedtime. Try using blackout shades or trick them by changing the clock.
Daylight saving time is a great time to reset your sleep habits, as well as your clock. Size up your sleep situation and how it might be affecting key aspects of your life such as your health, your relationships, your productivity, and success at work, even your ability to stay alert when driving a car.
To improve your sleep, try these tips:
- Set your intention by getting enough sleep (7-9 hours for most adults, and 8-10 hours for teens)
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This keeps your biological clock in sync
- Establish a nighttime routine for yourself to help your body settle down for the night. Choose relaxing activities, such as reading a book (not related to work) or taking a warm bath.
- Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room, on a comfortable, supportive mattress.
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom – including TVs, laptops and smartphones.
- Avoid heavy meals prior to bedtime.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day - they can interfere with sleep.
- If you’re stressed while you try to get to sleep, make a list of all the things you need to do, then give yourself permission to relax.
If you start making changes now to improve your sleep, you can increase the odds your body will be well prepared when it’s time to turn the clock forward.
Anita Bhola, MD, Medical Director Sleep Medicine at Montefiore Nyack Hospital