We spring forward for Daylight Saving Time, and then we fall back to Standard Time when it ends. This year we fall back on Sunday, November 3 at 2 a.m. While the time change in the spring is generally regarded as the more problematic one because you’re actually losing an hour, “falling back” and gaining an hour can throw many off us off kilter for a few days as well. Our Dr. Lisa Shives has some tips that can help make the transition less painful:
Start preparing early: Stay up a little later each night and sleep a little later each morning leading up to the time change. Those with work or school schedules may find this difficult during the week, but at least try it on Friday night and Saturday morning.
Consider when to change your clocks: It’s automatic for most people on the night before the time change to set their clocks back. In the spring, that is not a good plan for most people because they will lose one hour of sleep. In the fall, if you change the clock the night before, then you will gain an hour of sleep, which is good for many, but not all, people. Simply put, if you make no changes in the clock until the next morning, both in the fall and the spring, then you will get the amount of sleep you normally do, assuming a regular sleep and wake time is kept.
Avoid exercise, caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime: All three of these can disrupt your ability to sleep well and it’s always a good idea to avoid them near bedtime.
Prepare your kids: Some kids have a very difficult time adjusting, particularly the young ones who are still napping. Starting a few days before the time change, try to push their naps a little later each day to eventually line them up to where they will be after the time change.
But, what do you do if you didn’t plan ahead, and you’re reading this on the Sunday or Monday after the time change? If you’re feeling a little “off” and inexplicably tired, a cup of coffee or two in the first half of the day won’t hurt.
Dr. Lisa says another good idea is to make sure you get plenty of sunlight during the day. The fall time change marks the beginning of shorter and darker days. Since sunlight is needed to keep your circadian rhythms on track, the fall and winter months can lead to sleeping difficulties and depression for many. To combat this, be sure to get plenty of light in the morning and throughout the day. Natural sunlight is best, but if the days are cloudy or you’re up before the sun, turn on plenty of lights in the house and consider getting a light box.
In the end, don’t be surprised if you’re not quite feeling yourself for a couple of days. Take it easy and you’ll adjust quickly.
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.