Daylight Savings Time & Adjusting Your Sleep
Many people love Autumn for its welcome seasonal changes: gorgeous leaf colors, cooler days, and cozy nights indoors. One change that comes less appreciated is daylight saving time. Daylight savings ends in the fall, which means the clocks go back one hour.
In many ways, gaining that extra hour in the fall is easier than losing an hour in the spring. However, any change in time impacts your schedule and how you sleep. Thankfully, you can make some easy changes to adapt to and minimize the damage of this seemingly arbitrary time change.
How Does Daylight Saving Affect Sleep?
Of course, no time is actually gained or lost during daylight saving time; we simply borrow an hour from spring and give it to fall. It may seem as if we gain one hour of sleep in the fall, but researchers have found that this does not translate to more sleep.
Even just one extra hour of nighttime can disrupt sleep for days. One study found that the impacts of daylight savings time are often felt for up to a week. In the week after “falling back,” most people:
- Struggle to fall asleep at their usual time
- Wake up earlier
- Wake up more often during the night
- Sleep less overall
Those who suffer the most sleep fewer hours per night and get up earlier in the morning.
How to Cope With Daylight Savings Time
Being aware of how the time change affects your sleep is the first step to minimizing its damage. If you are an early riser, it’s especially important you take steps to adapt at this time of year. Here are some things you can do:
Adjust your sleep schedule in advance. Shift your sleep and wake times a little bit each night for a week leading up to the time change. Small changes are less impactful than one sudden shift. Go to bed ten to 15 minutes earlier each night and get up that much earlier each morning.
Lower the lights when the sun goes down. Light is a cue to be awake, and during time changes, it shifts suddenly, confusing your circadian clock. Use bright lights during the day, but once it gets dark outside, dim the lights to trigger sleepiness.
Get outside and get active. Regular exercise is a great way to reduce stress, which in turn can make sleeping easier. Get some exercise outside leading up to the time change to enhance your light exposure during the day.
Take short naps if needed. If you are struggling during the week after the time change, take a quick nap. While a quick snooze can be restorative and beneficial, avoid napping more than 20 minutes or late in the day.
Practice overall good sleep hygiene. Now is a good time to adopt healthy practices that are important year-round.. Avoid afternoon caffeine, evening alcohol, and heavy, late dinners; keep your bedroom cool and dark; go to bed at the same time every night; and avoid using screens an hour before bed.
The end of daylight saving time is not as bad as its start in spring, but it still impacts your sleep. Use these tips to prepare yourself beforehand and to easily adapt to“falling back” this November.
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