Five Tips That Will Help You Adjust to Daylight Saving Time
The clock shift doesn't have to throw your routine for a total loop.
One hour back or forward may not seem like a lot, but the shift associated with daylight saving time can wreak havoc on our bodies, experts warn. "Daylight saving time interrupts your sleep pattern and it can take the body a week or more to adjust," explains Janet Kennedy, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor. "For early risers and those already sleep deprived, adjusting to the time change can be even more challenging." Even in the fall, when we "gain" an hour and have the opportunity to sleep more, "the body doesn't usually take advantage," Kennedy says. "Most people end up waking earlier while the body adjusts to the new time. This makes the day feel longer, leading to crankiness and agitation. It can also feel harder to stay up until bedtime because the body clock isn't up to speed just yet."
But daylight saving time doesn't have to throw you for a complete loop. With these expert-approved tips, you can use the time change to your advantage and easily adjust to daylight saving time.
Stick to your normal schedule.
In the fall, you may find you wake up earlier than normal. There is no need to fight it and force yourself to stay in bed, says Dr. Kennedy. But you should try to "stick to your usual meal times and bedtime to help the body make the shift," she says. "Going to bed early will slow down the transition, so stick to your usual bedtime and your circadian rhythm will adjust within a week."
Log as many Z's as your body needs—but no less than seven hours a night.
A week before time change, Rebecca Rollins, M.D., author of Sleep for Success!, recommends logging the number of hours of sleep each night your body requires. "This varies for all of us, but the vast majority of adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep at night for best health and well-being," she says. "Just like you put money away into a savings account, this will allow you to 'bank' sleep so you're prepared if you have trouble sleeping when the time falls back."
Avoid caffeine and naps.
During daylight saving time, it's smart to avoid excess caffeine or taking naps, says Dr. Kennedy. Drinking too much caffeine—in the form of coffee and other beverages—and sleeping during the day "can prolong the jetlag-like effect of the time change, making it harder to fall asleep," Kennedy says.
Start a healthy, bedtime routine.
Dr. Rollins recommends using daylight saving time to create a new, healthy bedtime routine. "At night, it is easy for the hours to fly," she says. "After a long day, our ability to make healthy choices is deprived and we often give in to another TV episode or another email to send." She suggests setting aside 20 to 40 minutes before bed for relaxing activities, such as taking a bath. "This will allow you to keep your stress at bat and ease into the new schedule," Dr. Rollins says.
No matter what you do for your bedtime routine, you should not spend time on your phone, says Dr. Kennedy. "Using handheld screens keeps you plugged into the business of the day, multitasking and overstimulating the mind—and therefore the body," she says. "And the light from handheld screens can delay the release of melatonin, the body's sleep hormone, further confusing your circadian rhythm. Instead, try reading fiction—preferably something engaging but not overly agitating—to engage your mind while your body's fatigue takes over and puts you to sleep."
Spend time in natural light.
To adjust to daylight saving time, try to get into natural light as soon as possible, recommends Dr. Rollins. "Whether you go for a run or a walk to a coffee shop, exposure to natural light will help you sync your circadian rhythm to the new time," she explains.