As the weather is beginning to slowly thaw and the search for our lighter jacket in the back of the closet is underway, it’s a great time to start talking about Daylight Saving Time, kicking in at 2am on March 10th. The day we switch over to Daylight Saving Time (or DST)—when our clocks “spring forward” an hour—is typically dreaded because it steals an hour of our sleep...but does it really?
If you think about it, what everyone complains about is missing sleep that they wouldn’t have to miss if they just adjusted their sleep schedule. In reality, we can all get a full night of sleep no matter what our clocks say—all it takes is a little planning ahead.
Take it slow
Your body’s biological schedule is pretty stubborn, but it’s also open to change as long as you give it time.
The solution to protecting your sleep during the clock change is allowing your body to gradually adjust to an earlier bedtime. The week leading up to Daylight Saving Time, move your bedtime earlier by ten minutes each night, so that you end up around an hour earlier just in time for the night of the clock change.
This will help your body’s internal rhythm easily adjust to beginning the sleep process earlier. While everyone else is losing an hour of sleep, you can rest easy knowing that you’re not missing a thing.
Go with the flow
Another good thing to remember is that in the weeks following Daylight Saving Time, you should stick with the environmental signals of night and day to help your body keep up with the new schedule.
While we’re in Daylight Saving Time, our bedtimes and wake-up times (measured by the clock) shift an hour later from what they were all winter. This means that, for your body, going to bed at your usual 10pm actually can feel like you’re delaying your bedtime till 11pm, an hour after your body is used to shutting down for the night. Then on the other side of things, you’re also likely to wake up a little earlier than you’re used to, because 6:30am feels like 7:30am to your body.
Your body uses light and darkness as signals for when it should be alert and when it should be sleepy, respectively, so to avoid any ill-timed sleepiness and frustration, the best thing you can do is get sunlight exposure during the day while you’re active, and keep things dark when it’s time to sleep. This will help to keep you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when you want to be, and makes it easier to snooze when you should be. (Pssst, too much light in your bedroom in the mornings or summer evenings? Invest in some blackout curtains—they’re a sleep-saver!)
Want to know the best tip for better sleep all year-round, DST or no? One word: consistency.
Your body adapts to the patterns of your daily behavior, and it tries its best to align biological processes like your alertness/sleepiness cycle to the schedule you usually set. This means that the best way to get a full night’s sleep without the long wait staring up at the ceiling and an easy morning without any unshakeable sleepiness is to keep a consistent schedule—and that means every day of the week.
You might be familiar with (and may even take part in) the very common habit of staying up late on Fridays and Saturdays and sleeping in the following morning, aka “social jetlag”. This habit tends to throw our pattern-loving bodies for quite the loop. By Monday, your body has adjusted to a late night/late morning schedule—which obviously conflicts with the typical 9 to 5 work day when your alarm starts blaring at 7:30. This leads to some very groggy mornings and a hard time falling asleep at night. Then, come Friday, just as your body’s gotten back into the 9 to 5 groove, you start the whole process over again. See the problem?
For the best sleep, you should make sure that your sleep schedule is consistent whether it’s the weekend or a work day. What does this look like in practice? Well, you can actually give yourself a little wiggle room—sleep experts recommend keeping your bedtimes and wake-up times consistent within at least a half hour range from day to day.
We may be losing an hour on March 10th, but look on the bright side: we’re gaining spring and summer! Take advantage of the warmer weather and the extra dose of sunlight coming up to get active and shake off some of that Christmas weight. Studies have shown that exercise during the day is connected with an easier time falling asleep at night as well as longer sleep duration—and that sounds like a net gain to us!
Another tip that will help keep your sleep in good shape all year-round? Making sure that your bedroom is sleep-ready. Read all about the different ways your bedroom environment might be messing with your sleep here!