Daylight Saving Time Is Around the Corner—Here's How to Prepare Your Body and Mind for Losing an Hour of Sleep
Gaining or losing an hour of sleep may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but the reality is that the time change can wreak havoc on our internal clock. We all experience this twice per year: Daylight saving time starts in March (this year, it begins on March 13), when the clock springs forward, and ends in November (November 6, 2022, to be exact), when we return to standard time. The twice-yearly reset disrupts our sleep cycle and can leave many feeling groggy and irritable. "The transition in and out of daylight saving time can be very challenging for many people," says Dr. Melanie Bliss, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Thrive Center for Psychological Health. "Sleep challenges can create feelings of fatigue, distractibility, depression, and anxiety, and may result in outcomes such as increased tardiness and car accidents," she adds.
Adjusting to the time change is different for everyone, but there are a few things you can do to make the transition more seamless. To help you get ready for daylight saving time, we talked to several experts, who shared their thoughts on how to prepare for the event ahead.
Go to sleep earlier.
"With some advanced preparation, you can minimize the effects of the change to daylight saving time," explains Shalini Parthi, MD, co-director of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital. She says to get ready by prioritizing sleep; this changes our mindsets from losing an hour of sleep to losing an hour of daytime. To adjust your sleep cycle, Dr. Parthi recommends going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier than you normally would for up to four nights before the time change. You should also adjust the timing of other daily activities that are cues for your body, like meals and exercise, to make sleep easier.
Consider your personal needs.
Among the people most impacted by daylight saving time are those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is because people with SAD are especially sensitive to changes in day length, from sunrise to sunset, explains Kelly Rohan, Ph.D., professor and director of clinical training in the department of psychological science at the University of Vermont. "When we adjust our clocks for daylight saving time, we have dusk an hour later—but dawn will also be an hour later than it was before," she says, which means we wake up in the dark (this can be triggering for those with this condition). For those who struggle with SAD, Dr. Bliss recommends paying close attention to how you feel during the week of daylight saving time and giving yourself self-care. For some, she says, this could involve staying home, cooking healthy meals, and taking warm baths—for others, it might mean seeing friends and being social.
Increase your access to sunlight.
To adjust to daylight saving time, Dr. Rohan says to expose yourself to natural light as soon as possible upon waking. She also recommends going outside for a 30 minute walk during sunset, as "this will allow the sunlight to enter the retina and begin to reset the circadian rhythm to the new time schedule." If going outside isn't possible, open your curtains or blinds to let the light in.
Maintain a morning and night routine.
Sticking to a morning and nighttime schedule will help you maintain balance during this transitional period. Dr. Rohan says to have a wake-up routine in place, including behaviors to curb sleep inertia—the desire to sleep in, which results in grogginess—such as waking up with your alarm clock, getting exposure to sunlight in the morning, exercising, listening to upbeat music, and social contact in the morning. Similarly, she says to spend 30 minutes in the evening focusing on winding down by participating in sleep-enhancing activities. This could include bathing, crossword puzzles, soft music, and more.
Avoid screens at night.
Help sleep find you faster by limiting the amount of blue wavelength light you get at night, which is what your body clock is most sensitive to, according to Dr. Elizabeth Klerman, Ph.D, MD, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. "If you can reduce the amount of light that you get at night, it will prevent your body from thinking it should stay awake later and it may enable you to fall asleep faster," she says. Additionally, the blue light that screens emit suppresses melatonin release and contributes to insomnia, which Dr. Rohan says will make the adjustment to daylight saving time even harder.
Embrace the change.
To recalibrate after you gain or lose an hour of sleep, Dr. Bliss says to try to embrace and accept the change. "Don't fight it—and find ways to get your body up and moving in the morning to get endorphins flowing and acclimate quickly," she explains.