Daylight Savings Time seems to sneak up on us every year. Every spring we set the clocks ahead one hour, and every fall we turn them back one hour. Daylight Savings Time “saves” light by giving up more hours of daylight during daytime hours.
Moving the clocks by one hour might not seem like a big deal, but this hour may affect you more than you realize. Daylight Savings Time can upset your circadian rhythm and disrupt your healthy sleep patterns.
Daylight Savings Time and Sleep
Adjusting the clocks twice per year has a huge effect on sleep. That’s because most of our internal rhythms, including sleeping, waking, feeling hungry, and even our mood are all affected by sunlight. These cycles depend on exposure to sunlight, which is why many of us notice that our rhythms are synchronized with natural patterns of daylight and darkness.
Changing the clocks suddenly shifts the daylight by an hour. While your body still thinks it’s nighttime, your clock already says it’s 7 am and high time to start your day. This can affect your sleep-wake cycle and even cause “sleep debt” if you’re not getting enough sleep for a few nights in a row.
What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Are you feeling sleep-deprived after changing the clocks? You’re not the only one. In both March and November, changing the clocks can lead to sleep loss, mood disturbances, and more traffic accidents. It can be difficult to adjust to the new bedtime and wake-up time, and this week is tough for everyone.
Sleeping Better During Time Change
While changing the time will always be difficult, there are a few things you can do to make the transition much easier and enjoy the extra daylight. By planning for the time change, you can reduce the effect it has on your sleep patterns and your quality of sleep.
Sleep Hygiene Is More Important Than Ever
During time change, your sleep hygiene is more important than ever. Good sleep hygiene habits include:
- Avoid eating a heavy meal right before bed.
- Drink in moderation and avoid drinking right before going to sleep.
- Turn down the temperature in your room and sleep with comfortable blankets and sheets.
- Don’t watch TV in bed and avoid taking your phone to bed with you.
- If you can’t sleep, don’t lay awake tossing and turning. Get up, do a relaxing activity, and then get back into bed when you’re feeling drowsy.
Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Another way to sleep better during time changes is to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning will help you establish a regular routine. This helps align your circadian rhythm with daylight hours as well as helps you feel sleepy at the same time every night.
Spending some time outside every day will help you sleep better during time changes. Natural light drives our circadian rhythms, so getting more sunlight during the day can encourage more daytime energy, even if it’s early. Going outside and spending time in sunlight also reduces the production of melatonin, so you won’t feel quite so drowsy at night.
Skip the Nap
After a time change, it’s tempting to spend an afternoon in bed. But if you want to reset your body clock, skip the nap. You can take a short 15 or a 30-minute power nap, but avoid spending too long sleeping. Napping too long during the day can make you feel groggy for the rest of the day or make you less drowsy before bed.
Cut Back on Caffeine
If you normally stop drinking coffee after lunch, keep that rule during the time change. You may be feeling extra groggy but consuming more caffeine can disrupt your sleep rhythms and make it harder to adjust to the new time.
Slowly Adjust Your Schedule
In the week leading up to time change, you can make some small adjustments to your sleep schedule. You can move your bedtime and your wake time by 10 minutes per day. By the time the rest of the world changes its clocks, your body will already be adjusted to the new time.
If you struggle with sleep issues, we’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more about our sleep services.