Don’t Lose Sleep Over Daylight Savings Time!
Daylight savings (DST), which involves the twice-yearly manipulation of time by one hour (spring ahead, fall back), causes a temporary misalignment between your circadian rhythm (which is also tied to the light/dark cycle outside) and the actual clock.
Most people are able to tolerate and adjust to the effects of this change with little to no difficulty, and will bounce back fairly quickly without doing anything to compensate. For others, a more gradual shift can make the transition easier. In such cases, I offer the following suggestions:
Engage in a 3 day process that starts tonight, and ends when DST does (November 7, at 2am). This will involve adjusting your sleep window, so that you go to bed 20 minutes earlier each night and get up 20 minutes earlier each morning. This should be done on 11/4, 11/5, and 11/6, resulting in a bedtime that is one hour earlier by the time DST ends. You will then be totally in sync. As applicable, sleep medication dosing should also be adjusted accordingly. This incremental change is easier for our systems to tolerate and ensures that, by the time DST ends, you’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while others stumble about in a drowsy stupor.
To set the stage for earlier bedtimes on these 3 nights, you will want to observe and emphasize a solid buffer zone, which is the 45-60 minutes prior to the newly anticipated bedtime. No overhead lights, no work, no email, no news, no charged conversation. Just a very chill wind down. For maximum impact, refrain from viewing any device screens during the buffer, although tv is okay.
Do not look at a clock or other time indicator, from the time you get into bed, until your final awakening in the morning. This powerful intervention will be of great use to you as a standard practice moving forward.
During the period leading up to, and following, the end of DST, try to refrain from adjusting/canceling/rescheduling regular or planned activities, in nervous anticipation of any anticipated “adjustment period.” Although doing so will give you a moment of relief, it will also let your brain know that you are threatened by the change, and your brain will respond by generating more anxiety. Anxiety, or cognitive hyperarousal, is the single greatest obstacle to good sleep.
I hope you find this useful! ✌🏽
Richard E. Schultz, Ph.D.