This isn’t worth losing any sleep over!
It’s that time of the year again: when we all oversleep or can’t sleep and have to wrestle with the oven clock to get it right. Yes, it’s time to set the clocks an hour ahead as we re-enter daylight saving time and leave standard time.
On March 13, we’ll move the clocks ahead an hour, signaling the unofficial start of spring!
It’s a nuisance to actually remember and then adjust (you sort of lose an hour of sleep), but it’s worth it. The days will get brighter, thanks to more hours of sunlight, and moods will probably lift a bit!
And adjusting to the new schedule doesn’t have to be such a chore. There are ways around it, just like there are tips and tricks to adjusting to a new time zone to avoid jet lag. We spoke to Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, associate scientist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and sleep expert at The Benjamin Hotel in New York City, about how to prep the body to make sure your sleep doesn’t suffer.
“The fall back to standard time is far easier for us from the standpoint of our sleep and circadian rhythm than the springtime transition to daylight saving time when we roll the clocks and lose one hour,” Dr. Robbins tells KCM. Below, she breaks down how to capitalize on the time change this weekend to improve your sleep and start off spring on the right foot from the standpoint of our sleep and health as warm weather approaches.
1. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night leading up to the time change
On Sunday we lose one full hour in our 24-hour day. “In the face of fixed responsibilities, personally and professionally, sleep, unfortunately, can get the short end of the stick, bringing many of our sleep health bank accounts into arrears,” Dr. Robbins says. She points out that the spring-forward time change has actually been shown to present public safety concerns as “the number of car accidents increases in the week after the time change and the number of heart attacks goes up significantly among the population.” She suggests you start preparing for this as soon as possible. “Start to prepare by going to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight, then another 15 minutes earlier tomorrow night to give you a bit more rest that will allow you to ease into the transition faster.”
2. Go to bed “early” on Sunday night
Basically, keep the same bedtime. “If your target bedtime before the change was 10 p.m., that will be 11 p.m. this Sunday night. Try to remain on your previous bedtime schedule and fall asleep 30-45 minutes ‘earlier’ on Sunday night so you’re asleep at — or close to — the time that would previously have been your target fall asleep time.”
3. Start a soothing bedtime routine
Not tired because it’s an hour earlier, technically? We get it. So, Dr. Robbins suggests starting a few healthy habits to help you get there. “If you are not already doing so, start a relaxing wind-down ritual before bed that hopefully you can keep every night. Good activities for a bedtime routine include taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, or reading for fun,” she says. “We recommend winding down before bed because we cannot simply go from our high energy, productive daytime activities like working, emailing, and scrolling social media to sleep,” she says. “Instead, falling asleep is a process and it’s important to fill the time before we want to fall asleep with soothing activities so that we can drift off to sleep. Ideally, avoid bright lights from devices in this time, or change settings, such as via Night Shift on an iPhone or Flux on an Android device, to change the temperature of the color from your screen to be more ‘warm,’ which will dampen the negative impact of bright blue screens on sleep.” Luckily, there are a lot of products out there that will help you get ready for a good night’s sleep.
4. Use natural and artificial light to your advantage
“Getting exposure to natural light is the best, most efficient way to change to a new time, either when you’re traveling or this weekend during the time change. Natural sunlight is the strongest ‘zeitgeber’ or cue to our internal physiological rhythm,” says Dr. Robbins. “In addition, exposure to bright, natural light has a similar alerting effect as caffeine, without the jitters.” When you wake up Sunday, get outside and into the natural sunlight after you wake up in the morning if you’re feeling groggy, she suggests. “This will give your circadian rhythm valuable information on the times it must be alert. Conversely, try to avoid artificial sources of light before bedtime. Blue-spectrum lights from a tablet, computer, or smartphone emulate the sun and can cause our brain to think it’s time to wake up and be alert. The absence of light exposure before bedtime is what allows melatonin to secrete and sleep to follow.”
5. Do a bedroom refresh
Ideally, your bedroom is a sanctuary for good sleep and a space that you walk into and feel instantly soothed and relaxed. “Use this as an opportunity to reassess your bed, pillows, and bedroom design. Ensure that your bedroom is free from stressful elements, such as devices with buzzers, cable boxes with flashing lights, and bright, alerting colors.” Dr. Robbins suggests installing blackout shades, so the morning sun doesn’t disrupt your sleep. “Make sure your bedroom can go down to 65-67 degrees F because a cooler bedroom will promote our ability to fall asleep and maintain good sleep.”
6. Toss and turn? Get out of bed
Seriously. If you can’t sleep, get up! “If you experience any insomnia-like symptoms with the time change, do not stay in bed and toss and turn!” Dr. Robbins warns. “This will cause us to look at our bed as a stressful place. Instead, leave the bed and go to a separate room or sit in an armchair, practice a meditation exercise, keep the lights low, read a book (for fun!), and go back to bed when you are tired.