It happens every year, but Daylight Saving Time still manages to catch many people by surprise. Every spring, clocks are pushed forward one hour from 2:00am to 3:00am to start Daylight Saving Time. Even though the clocks change by only an hour during Daylight Savings Time, the effects can be noticeable! This is especially true in the spring, when people lose an hour of the day and that hour is often subtracted from time spent sleeping.
That means that the second Monday in March is likely going to be a day when most people will feel exhausted, thanks to a way-too-early-seeming wake-up call.
In fact, the average person sleeps 40 minutes less the night following the springtime change than they do on a typical night. While the majority of people will adjust by that Wednesday, some unlucky ones will end up suffering for an entire week. It’s as if you end up with a mild case of jet lag. Your body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) may be thrown off course, which can affect how much sleep-inducing melatonin is released and when.
Why? Suddenly, there is less light in the morning (which is when you need to wake up) and more light at night (which is when you should be falling asleep). These changes can make it harder to get going in the morning when it’s dark, and perhaps more difficult to turn in at your usual hour. Moving our clocks changes the principal time cue -- light -- for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. This can be especially hard in the spring, because "losing" an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than "gaining" an hour in the fall. It is similar to airplane travel; traveling east we lose time.
Within a few days, you should adjust to the new time schedule naturally as your circadian rhythm catches up to your new reality. How time changes actually affect you depends on your own personal health, sleep habits, and lifestyle.
Here’s what you can do to help your adjustment:
• If you are getting seven to eight hours of sound sleep and go to bed a little early the night before, you may wake up feeling refreshed.
• If you’re already somewhat sleep-deprived, giving up just one hour of shuteye can negatively impact how you feel and function during the day, perhaps even compromising your alertness and reaction time while driving. Start now in trying to obtain more sleep leading up to the hour change.
• It helps to prepare for losing that hour of sleep by going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier than usual each night in the days leading up to the time change. If you don’t, at least turn in earlier on the night of the time change to try to recoup some of that lost shuteye.
• To help your brain and body make the shift more quickly, it may help to sleep in for an extra half hour on the Sunday morning after the clocks change and expose yourself to sunlight early in the morning.
• Use LIGHT! Think of this as tricking your internal clock into believing that it’s sunny outside and it’s time to get moving. As the weeks progress, this will become less of an issue as the days gain more hours of natural light. Light is the principal environmental cue. Light suppresses the secretion of the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. It is important to expose yourself to the light during the waking hours as much as possible. and conversely, do not expose yourself to bright light when it is dark outside. For example, if you get up at night to go to the bathroom, do not turn on the light. Prepare beforehand by installing a night light.
• Rethink your evening activities. Tweaks to your nighttime routine can help you drift off more easily—something that’s tough to do when you spring forward. A few important ones: Limit caffeine and alcohol intake in the hours leading up to bedtime and don’t schedule a late night workout right before bed. Also, only engage in relaxing activities prior to bed- not stressing over work, time changes, etc.
• Practice good sleep hygiene-which is a term used to describe those actions you can take to create sleep-friendly environments and enhance your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping soundly. Basic sleep hygiene includes reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol, creating calming rituals before bed to gradually relax yourself (taking a hot bath for example), and wearing ear plugs and eye masks, to name a few. Make sure you go to bed and rise at the same time every day.
So- there may be some tired and groggy people hitting the streets Monday morning, in the dark. Don’t be one of them! Follow the tips above and get a good night’s sleep!