Time Changes and Sleep

Those pesky time changes! They sneak up on us and ruin our sleep schedule. However, falling back may help us prioritize sleep. Every spring (the second Sunday in March), clocks are pushed forward one hour from 2:00am to 3:00am to start Daylight Saving Time. And every fall (first Sunday in November), they are dropped back an hour (2:00am becomes 1:00am) to go into Standard Time.

Ahhh don't we all love that extra hour, it holds so many benefits. Nevertheless, we must face that dreadful spring forward. Here are a few simple tricks to adjust your sleep and lifestyle to that unwanted day. 

How long will it take you to adapt to time changes?

Though a bit simplistic, a rule of thumb is that it takes about one day (it may take some up to a week) to adjust for each hour of time change. Moving our clocks in either direction changes the light cue for setting our circadian rhythm. By doing so, our internal clock becomes out of sync with our current day-night cycle. The way we adapt to this depends on several different factors.

Be aware that it can take your circadian and sleep rhythms a week or so to get adjusted to the new clock. Slowly adapting your sleep schedule prior to the time change may make the transition more natural. Try going to bed a few minutes earlier and waking up earlier every day a few weeks before the spring forward! 

Keep a consistent sleep schedule once the time does change. Going to bed and getting up on a schedule can help. By doing this your body is adjusted to a specific schedule and will become in tune with your lifestyle. Most people need up to 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night, by keeping a consistent sleep schedule we can thrive during the day. And giving in to brief afternoon nap or two during the week may be a pleasant and relaxing way to give you a energy boost during the day.

Regular exercise, preferably at the same time each day, may help get your sleep cycle back on track. Moderate exercise, like walking, can help you sleep better and stay energized in the evenings. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, three times a week or more. If you often don't sleep well, don't exercise too close to bedtime.

Utilize light. How bright your environment is affects your sleep cycle. Go outside early in the mornings and soak in some sunlight to boost your energy levels. The opposite holds true for nighttime. Dim your lights when you want to signal to your body that it’s time to go to sleep and avoid staring at computer screens late in the day.