How to adjust to daylight saving time - this Sunday

Daylight savings is upon us and the clocks ‘spring’ forward this Sunday, March 14. So is this the time we get an extra hour or lose an hour of sleep….

Sorry to say…we lose an hour of sleep.

Why is this change forward difficult to adjust to?

The jump ahead throws off your body’s circadian rhythm, our internal clocks that regulate our sleep/wake cycle and many other biological functions. It’s a finely tuned system, extensively connected throughout our bodies, not just the brain. Every cell in our body has its own time-keeping mechanism, aligned to each other. That’s a lot of clocks that need to change to the new beat we artificially schedule it to. For this reason, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has campaigned for the abolishment of daylight savings change, citing an abundance of evidence that this spring-time change incurs significant public health and safety risks, including increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mood disorders, and even motor vehicle crashes.

How can you prepare for the time change?

The goal is to maintain your regular amount of sleep, which should be around 7-8 hours a night. But it’s hard to expect to change over one night. The best is a slow transition to the new time, giving yourself 3 days to adjust.  

What about children and the time change?

Children feel the effects of this time change more than adults, making it even more important to gradually change their routine over a span of days.

Recommended time-adjusting schedule, starting Thursday

Here’s a recommended schedule, based on maintaining 8 hours of sleep, plus 30 minutes allowed for getting to sleep. Go to sleep 20 minutes earlier each night. This earlier bedtime should also shift your wake-up time to 20 minutes earlier. Use this as a guide.

Wednesday bedtime (current schedule): 10:30pm Thursday wake-up: 7:00am

Thursday bedtime: 10:10pm Friday wake-up: 6:40am

Friday bedtime: 9:50pm Saturday wake-up: 6:20am

Saturday bedtime: 9:30pm Sunday wake-up: 7:00am (new time, one hour ahead, after 8 hours of sleep)

Sunday bedtime: 10:30pm Monday wake-up: 7:00am - back to your pre-daylight savings routine.

If you didn't adjust gradually, what can you do?

If you weren’t able to adjust from Thursday night, all is not lost. You can try going to bed 30 minutes earlier on Saturday night, and hopefully you’ll wake up 30 minutes later. Or go to bed an hour earlier. This one is tricky to do, because it’s hard to force your body to sleep a full hour earlier.

The most important tip to follow...

This tip alone will help you adjust quickly, even if you weren’t able to slowly shift your bedtime days before the change. Don’t expose yourself to blue light on Saturday night. Artificial blue light at night is one of the top causes of sleep disruption, affecting the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone our body needs at night. The secretion process is tied directly to blue light, and the more light our eyes register, the less melatonin that is secreted into our bloodstream, leaving us wired and tired…

A quick hack is to cut yourself off from TV and devices after sunset on Saturday night. Doing this is likely to help you go to bed earlier anyway, as your body feels the full effect of melatonin.

What happens if you do nothing?

On average it takes 5-7 days to adjust to a time change, even if it’s only an hour difference. Until then, you’re likely to feel less energy, particularly in the morning.  

What else can you do?

Shift eating time earlier too

The time you eat is also a cue for our circadian rhythm. As you are shifting your bedtime earlier each day, shift your dinner time 20 minutes earlier.

And don’t overeat. This is good advice for anytime of the year, as overeating can lead to poor sleep quality, as your body is fixated on digesting rather than resting.

Get more sunlight, especially morning light, on Sunday the first day of the new time 

Morning light - within 30 minutes after sunrise - is the ideal time to expose yourself. Your circadian rhythm is reset everyday by sunlight entering your eyes, traveling to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the hypothalamus, triggering a cascade of hormones to be produced and released, one being melatonin. Help your body adjust faster, resetting it to the new time with the morning light on Sunday. Even if it’s a cloudy or rainy day, your eyes register the sunrise behind the clouds. Or if it's too cold to be outside, sit near a window or door and let the natural light enter your eyes and touch your body. 

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