Daylight saving time (DST) begins in March. Clocks "spring forward" by an hour and we all bemoan our loss of an hour of sleep. Then, for the next week or so, we try to force our bodies to get up "earlier" and not feel so empty when we wake up. But DST doesn't have to ruin our lives. We don't even have to lose the hour of sleep. We just need to be strategic and plan ahead.
Gradually make an adjustment by going to bed a little earlier every night ahead of DST. Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night (your mileage may vary), so make your calculations based on that. Set your clock 10 to 20 minutes early each morning. When the day rolls around, your body will already think it's time to wake up.
The days before DST are when you want to fine-tune your nightly routine. An hour before your bedtime, turn off all electronics. If you have to be on your device, be sure to use the nighttime feature that eliminates blue light. Make sure your bedroom isn't too warm, change and freshen up your sheets, and get a new pillow if you need it. Use this as a chance to make your sleeping space comfortable, peaceful and relaxing for sleep.
If you're used to having a cup of fully caffeinated coffee at 3 in the afternoon, switch it to 2 p.m. If you have it at 2 p.m., go ahead and get your last cup of coffee in at 1 p.m. Or cut non-morning caffeine until you're into the DST groove.
Our bodies are a highly tuned machine of circadian rhythms and hormonal ebbs and flows. Going to bed hungry can keep you awake, as can eating too much too close to bedtime. With respect to DST, eating at the regular time sends signals to the body that you'll go to sleep at the regular time. Instead, eat a little bit earlier and convince your body it's time to start winding down a little sooner.
If all else fails, guided meditation can help with focusing the brain on relaxation and calm, which get the body ready for sleep. Find an app or YouTube video that you like, or read up on how to calm the mind.
Believe it or not, kids (who can't yet tell time) may not be that affected by DST. Put them down at the earlier time—they might surprise you and fall asleep. If your child runs more like a clock, start now by putting them to bed 10 minutes earlier each night.
Kids, especially babies, tend to respond well to sleeping in very dark, cool rooms. If you haven't yet fitted the windows with blackout shades, the lead-up to DST is a good time.
Newborns are newborns, so they never really had the swing of regular time anyway. Daylight saving time will be just as random for them. Instead, focus on getting yourself support, so that you don't lose too much sleep during the time change. (Though with a newborn, what's the difference?)
Don't deprive yourself of sleep. If you go to bed too wound up, you won't be able to fall asleep or get quality sleep. Instead, give in to the fatigue and take a nap if you can. Set an alarm for 20 to 30 minutes and get a little extra energy to get through the rest of a long day (or days).
One of the best ways to get control of the time change is to set a schedule. Calculate when you'll need to go to bed based on when you have to wake up. Then fill in breakfast, lunch and dinner times. Make sure to adjust evening runs or dog walks if you prefer to do those when it is still light out. Set necessary alarms and alerts—then stick to them.
If you tend to have a hard time winding down early, intensify your exercise routine. You may also want to change the time you get your workouts in—earlier as a signal to the body that you'll want to slow down earlier.
Focus on light meals during this time of transition, particularly what you eat later at night. You don't want to go to bed hungry, but if you go to bed too full, the restless sleep will leave you feeling unrested in the (already early to your body) morning.
If you've done everything—schedules, routines, eating earlier, exercising—and you still can't get to sleep after the clocks spring forward, go ahead and get up. Try reading, listening to music or meditating (avoid going on screens). Run down the clock for an hour and then try again to go to sleep. Don't worry, the adjustment doesn't take forever. You'll be sleeping well again in no time.
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