As you may know, Daylight Savings Time is approaching quickly. Specifically, next Sunday, March 10. For most of the United States, this means springing ahead one hour, which equates to longer hours of daylight and the near arrival of spring. Overall, this is generally welcomed and well received, but for some, there is one caveat: sleep interference.
As stated by Dr. Michael J. Breus, in his article, How Sleep Is Affected by Time Changes, “In general, “losing” an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall. It is similar to airplane travel; traveling east we lose time. An “earlier” bedtime may cause difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night. Going west, we fall asleep easily but may have a difficult time waking.”
So, how long will it take to adjust? Well, according to Breus, it takes about one day to adapt to one hour of time change. Of course, this is dependent upon each individual.
Another question, what can you do to reset your internal clock to adjust more quickly to the time change? Breus mentions the following, specifically:
- Light is the primary environmental cue. Melatonin, otherwise known as the sleep hormone, is suppressed by light; therefore, it’s critical to expose yourself to light during the waking hours as much as possible. In contrast, do not expose yourself to bright light when it is dark outside. For instance, Breus says not to turn on the light if you wake in the night to use the bathroom. Don’t think you have to muddle around, trying to feel your way to the toilet, but instead, try preparing beforehand by having a night-light ready. This way, you can just flip the switch when you get up and expose yourself to very little light.
- Maintain good sleep hygiene. This influences your ability to fall asleep faster, stay asleep and sleep soundly. This includes such things as reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake (especially after 2 p.m.), limiting or eliminating alcohol, exercising earlier in the day, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine (reading, warm bath, herbal tea, etc.). It’s also important to be consistent with your sleep and wake schedule and make sure you’re going to bed and waking at nearly the same time each day. The NightWave Sleep Assistant can also prove to be very handy in establishing a relaxing bedtime routine and influencing your ability to fall asleep.
How do you feel about springing forward? Does it disrupt your sleep a lot? If so, what do you do to cope?