How to Adjust Your Sleep Schedule to Daylight Saving Time

In the early morning hours of March 10, many people will find their clocks springing forward in recognition of daylight saving time. And the subsequent days might feel strangely long — thanks to the extra afternoon daylight and a groggy internal clock. But losing that hour doesn’t have to be so disorienting. Here’s how daylight saving time can affect your body — as well as how to adjust your sleep schedule to mitigate its impact.

How daylight saving time can affect your body

tired man at desk holding his headCredit: PeopleImages/Getty Images

You might not think missing an hour of sleep would make much of a difference for your health and energy level. But every year when daylight saving time rolls around, you’re probably reminded that it doesn’t feel so great. “Losing even just one hour of sleep can cause you to feel groggy the next day and impair your concentration,” according to Cleveland Clinic. And that diminished ability to function can have some serious consequences.

Some research has examined daylight saving time’s role in the workplace. One study found workers lost about 40 minutes of sleep on the Monday directly following the change to daylight saving time. And other study saw that workers sustained both a higher number of injuries and more severe injuries on the Monday after the time change. Plus, another study found an increase in automobile accidents on that Monday.

Moreover, certain health conditions might be associated with the time change. That hour of lost sleep might bring on headaches, especially for people who have frequent migraines. “Those impacted by headaches during the time change may want to consider taking melatonin to help them get a good night’s sleep because regulating the sleep cycle can help keep headaches at bay,” according to Cleveland Clinic.

And some research has even linked daylight saving time to certain heart problems, particularly for those who already are vulnerable. “The risk of having a stroke goes up 8 percent during the first two days after the beginning of daylight saving time, according to one Finnish study,” the American Heart Association says. “In Sweden, researchers found an average 6.7 percent greater risk of heart attack in the three days after the spring change.” That’s why strategically adjusting to the time change is key, so you limit as much stress as possible on your body.

Adjusting your sleep schedule to daylight saving time

Woman opening curtains and looking out in the morningCredit: baona/Getty Images

Springing forward doesn’t have to be a huge fuss. With just a few minor tweaks to your daily routine, your body might not even notice you lost an hour. Here are five tips to help you effortlessly adjust your sleep schedule for daylight saving time.

1. Don’t go into the time change sleep-deprived

Losing that hour of nighttime will feel a lot worse if you’re not already getting an adequate amount of sleep. “In the week leading up to the time change, pay special attention to clocking the right amount of shut eye,” Sleep.org says. Most adults need roughly seven to nine hours of sleep, but everyone’s “magic number” that makes them feel well-rested varies. If you fall asleep about 15 minutes after you go to bed, don’t have to fight with your alarm to wake up and feel generally alert throughout the day (without the help of caffeine), then you’re probably getting an optimal amount of sleep. If not, it’s time to make some adjustments before you spring forward into deeper sleep debt.

2. Start transitioning days before the time jump

That hour lost will be a lot easier to handle if you slowly ease your body into it. The National Sleep Foundation suggests incrementally moving up your bedtime and wake-up time by about 15 to 20 minutes in the days before the time shift. Or at the very least, don’t make that Saturday night a late night. Stay in, have a relaxing evening and go to bed earlier than normal. With a little preparation, you might be able to avoid those jet lag-like feelings altogether.

3. Listen to your alarm

A sleep schedule adjustment period is not the time to hit snooze. Consistency is key when you’re trying to reset your internal clock. So when your alarm goes off a little bit earlier — hopefully you’ve made it easier on yourself by breaking up that hour shift into smaller increments — accept that it’s time to rise and shine. “Get up when the alarm goes off, even if you’re tired,” Johns Hopkins Medicine says. “Your body will adjust quicker if you stick to the new sleep schedule.”

4. Limit naps, caffeine and alcohol

If possible, resist the urge to nap while you’re resetting your internal clock. A nap in the middle of the day might leave you feeling wide awake for your earlier bedtime and make the adjustment period last even longer. If you absolutely must nap, Cleveland Clinic recommends keeping it to 20 minutes or less. Likewise, limit caffeinated beverages at least four to six hours before your new bedtime (that might mean cutting yourself off a little earlier than you’re used to), and avoid alcohol late at night. Both can have a negative impact on your sleep quality and quantity, according to Cleveland Clinic. And your body needs all the help it can get while it’s adjusting to daylight saving time.

5. Use light strategically

Light helps to regulate your circadian rhythm. And when used strategically, it can trick your body into embracing daylight saving time. “Seek some morning sunshine to help yourself wake up — it resets your internal clock,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Make a point to open your curtains first thing in the morning to let in daylight, or boost your energy even faster by taking a quick walk outside. “If it’s difficult to get natural sunlight in the morning where you live, consider using a light box or dawn simulator to enhance mental and physical alertness,” the National Sleep Foundation says. On the flip side, limit light exposure earlier in the evenings to alert your body that it’s time for sleep. Dim the lights, and avoid using blue light-emitting devices — TVs, computers, smartphones, etc. — close to bedtime. Before you know it, your internal clock will be perfectly in sync with the time on your alarm clock, and you can enjoy these longer, sunnier days well-rested.

Main image credit: Leks_Laputin/Getty Images

61 comments

Caitlin L
Caitlin L10 days ago

Thank you

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Shirley S
Shirley S10 days ago

Daylight saving affects us all even our animals.

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Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley10 days ago

Thank you.

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Angela K
Angela K10 days ago

noted

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Christine D
Christine D10 days ago

Would have been nice to see this BEFORE the actual time change!

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RK R
RK R11 days ago

What a tortures policy Arizona and Hawaii frees themselves of.

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Ruth S
Ruth S11 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S11 days ago

Thanks.

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Fatmat Folarin
Fatmat Folarin11 days ago

Very informative

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Brad H
Brad H11 days ago

thanks

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