The switch to Daylight Saving Time, which in the United States, Canada and Mexico happens at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11, brings some wonderful benefits. Not only is it a sign that warm temperatures are on the way, it also means more daylight during your waking hours. The downside, however, is that you will lose one hour of sleep as your clocks “spring forward”. Since the switch to Daylight Saving Time can essentially create a nationwide “jet lag” effect, it’s best to prepare in advance.
“One tip I always give people is to NOT change their clocks before they go to bed unless they have to be somewhere in the morning,” said SleepBetter medical sleep expert Dr. Lisa Shives (The Sleep M.D.) “Go to bed at your normal time on Saturday night, then change your clocks when you get up on Sunday morning.. In the end, you’ll get the same amount of sleep as you usually do, and it will seem like you woke up an hour later on Sunday morning, which isn’t unusual for a lot of people.”
Dr. Shives says over-the-counter remedies such as sleeping pills are NOT the answer. Instead, start planning ahead a couple of days in advance by going to bed a little earlier each night.
“In the fall, switching is easy, as most people have no trouble staying up one hour later than they’re used to or sleeping an additional hour,” said Dr. Shives. “The problem comes in the spring, when you need to go to bed one hour earlier or else you’ll lose a full hour of sleep. No matter how hard you try, you simply cannot force your body to sleep if it’s not ready.”
When the switch does come, you may find that you’re tired or disoriented during the day. Caffeinated products like coffee can help perk you up somewhat, but try to avoid them in the afternoon as they may disrupt your sleep the next night. For the same reason, try to avoid napping late in the late afternoon. Finally, be particularly careful driving on the first day after the time change, as drowsy driving is a leading cause of traffic accidents.
Seasonal time changes can be problematic for many, but if you take it easy, prepare in advance, and just give it a little time, you’ll find that you’ll be back to normal in no time.
Dr. Shives works with SleepBetter.org to provide a medical view of sleep issues. She is one of only a few practitioners with a fellowship in Sleep Medicine in addition to board certification by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.