Wellness Matters

Plan Ahead to Spring Forward: 6 Ways to Sleep Through the Time Change

March 07, 2017

If you’re already dreading March 13 – the day after we switch to daylight saving time – you’re not alone.

clock springing forwardMany people feel sleep-deprived for several days after setting their clocks ahead a full hour. Losing an hour’s sleep on any day can make life harder. We’re more likely to have poor judgment and trouble concentrating. When we’re driving, our reflexes are not as sharp.

But you can make the transition easier this year for yourself and your family for daylight saving time. The best approach is to plan ahead. Here are a few ideas to consider:
  • Reset your body clock gradually. A few days before the time changes, start shifting your bedtime routine ahead 15 minutes or so each night. A more gradual change is particularly helpful if you have children and pets. They don’t understand why they suddenly have to go to bed or eat at a different time. If you do wait until Sunday night and move your bedtime up the full hour, you probably won’t be able to get to sleep right away. Most people find it easier to stay up late than to go to bed early. 
  • Skip the nap. A Sunday afternoon nap may be part of your weekend ritual, but it’s not a good idea the weekend we spring forward. Even a quick nap on the sofa will make it harder to get to sleep when you need to that evening.
  • Know that age matters. Older adults already have poorer sleep quality, on average, than younger people. Many seniors find it harder to reset their body clocks for daylight saving time than they did in years past. And teenagers are in a category all their own when it comes to sleep. Their sleep patterns shift during adolescence, and most prefer to stay up late and sleep later in the morning. It’s hard enough for them to be at their best on a normal Monday morning. Expecting them to be alert an hour earlier than usual is unrealistic – and another good reason to make the change gradually. 

Make quality sleep a priority. The beginning of daylight saving time is also a good reminder to practice good sleep hygiene year-round. Here are a few ways to increase your chances of getting more nights of restful sleep:

  1. Turn off all electronics. The screens on our phones, tablets and TVs are brighter than we realize, and they’re designed to keep us alert and stimulated. It’s tempting to check email or Facebook one last time before going to sleep, but put it off until morning. And don’t fall asleep with the television on. The flickering light will make it harder for you to get quality sleep. A better option is to read a book or a magazine. You should also keep all electronic devices away from children when it’s time for bed. While you can’t make them go to sleep, you can remove these types of distractions.
  2. Limit caffeine and alcohol several hours before bedtime. Alcohol is a sedative, but it’s not an effective sleep aid. Your body goes through withdrawal when the effects of the alcohol wear off, and your sleep will suffer as a result. 
  3. Exercise regularly. Even moderate exercise like walking will help improve your sleep. But finish your workout at least two hours before going to bed. That should give you enough time to get your body temperature back to normal so you can relax.
  4. Skip the late-night snack. Eating too close to bedtime can also interfere with sleep quality. It’s best to finish dinner two to three hours beforehand.
  5. Create the right atmosphere for sleep. For quality sleep, your bedroom should be cool, dark and free from distractions. 
  6. Make sleep a priority. Most adults need at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. Operating on less can affect our mood, productivity and overall health.

The good news is that our bodies will adjust to the new schedule of daylight saving time. And starting March 12, we can once again enjoy an extra hour of light at the end of the day.

About the Author

Dr. Clint Youn

Clint Young, MDpulmonologist and medical director of the Cone Health Sleep Disorders Center 


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