The start of Daylight Savings time is just around the corner – on March 11th, to be specific. Regardless of whether you agree with the whole ‘Spring Forward’/'Fall Back’ rigamarole, it is reality for most of us, so the most important question is ‘how do we deal with it?’.
In general, shifting our sleep schedule one hour isn’t a huge deal. Most people can make the adjustment pretty easily in just a couple days. Nevertheless, there are ways to make it even simpler for you. And, for those who really do struggle with the change the rest of this week’s ‘Thursday Sleep Tip’ should help you out.
Which Problem is Toughest for You?
Adjusting the clock an hour, whether forward or backward, affects our sleep in two ways. It affects the time you go to sleep. And it affects the time you get up. OK, that was fairly obvious. Still, it’s an important consideration because some people suffer more on one end of the sleep schedule than on the other, and it isn’t the same for everybody.
Most people’s natural biological rhythms prefer sleep to be on a schedule that spans anywhere from about 23 hours 50 minutes to 24 hours 20 minutes. For those who are on the longer end, it is easier for them to adjust when the time change lengthens the day. For those who are on the shorter end of the scale it is easier to adjust to a shorter day.
So, ask yourself this question: “Which is harder for me to adjust to – waking up an hour earlier or going to sleep an hour earlier?” This is specifically talking about Spring Forward. In the Fall the change is in the opposite direction.
Help with Getting up Earlier
If that Spring adjustment makes it tough for you to get up an hour earlier, but you have no difficulty getting to sleep at the adjusted schedule, here are a few things you can try to make the change more easily.
First of all, just going to sleep an hour earlier Saturday night doesn’t necessarily take care of the problem. For one, it isn’t easy to make yourself go to sleep an hour earlier than you’re used to. Also, even if you are able to get to sleep quickly and you would be getting the same number of hours of sleep you would not likely be getting the same quality of sleep.
The easiest solution is to start the adjustment process sooner and make it more gradual. For the four days prior to Sunday (so this would start on Thursday), try going to bed and getting up 15 minutes earlier than the previous day so that on Sunday you only have to make another 15 minute adjustment.
15 minute increments are pretty easy for the mind and body to handle. In fact, most of us won’t even notice the difference, except maybe in the first few minutes of the morning.
An alternative method is to get up 30 minutes earlier one week before Daylight Savings time begins, and hold that change for a week, and then make another 30 minute change on the day. This has the advantage of allowing yourself to fully acclimate to the change, but still in smaller chunks than a full hour at once. Of course, it is already too late to try this tactic this time around. Maybe in six months.
It is important when making these adjustments that you follow good sleep hygiene, such as in my best sleep tips article. Also, you should incorporate methods for ensuring you wake up on time and in a positive manner, something I talked about in a recent article about the snooze alarm.
Help Going to Sleep Earlier
A few people may find that getting up an hour earlier isn’t a big deal. For them, however, trying to fall asleep at 9 P.M. instead of 10 is an exercise in futility.
Again, The first thing to do is make sure you are practicing good sleep hygiene. In particular a good pre-sleep routine will be a huge help.
Secondly, the smaller increments strategy described above can make it easier for you to adjust. It can be very difficult to go to be an hour earlier than you’re used to, but probably not a big deal to go to sleep 10 or 15 minutes earlier than usual.
Some other things that will help you in this:
Make sure to get outside in the daylight during the day, as much as possible. Take advantage of the weekend by spending it outdoors.
Get some good exercise. Go for a hike, take a long bike ride or go for a run. Make sure to make it long and fatiguing, but do it early in the day on Saturday. Exercise done too late will actually disrupt sleep.
Turn off the TV an hour earlier than usual, sit under a dim light and read a good book. Reading at night wears down the brain and makes you sleepy, unlike TV, computers and other backlit devices which actually keep the brain awake.
If these do not help enough, one other strategy you can try is to get up extra early on Saturday so you are particularly tired at night. One of the two most important factors that affect our readiness for sleep is how many hours we’ve been awake. Get up extra early and don’t take a nap. You should be ready to fall asleep in time to handle the adjustment just fine.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. If you’ve found something else that works let us know about it in the comments section.
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