Twice each year, several countries around the globe change the time on their clocks. Daylight saving time (DST) begins in the springtime, when clocks are put forward an hour, and it ends in the fall when clocks are put back.
The goals of daylight saving are centered on making better use of daylight and energy, although the effectiveness of the latter is somewhat disputed.
On the surface, it may seem like changing the clock by one hour isn't such a big deal. However, many people struggle with the required adjustments to their own internal body clock (circadian rhythm). There is even some evidence to suggest that workplace injuries are higher on the Monday immediately following the switch to DST, which could be related to the effects of sleep deprivation.
When clocks go forward in the springtime, some people find they're dragging themselves out of bed. They still want that extra hour of sleep, yet need to get to work on time. They might also find it hard to go to bed early enough when it's still light in the late evening.
When daylight saving time ends in the fall and clocks go back to "standard time," people might struggle for different reasons. With an hour of daylight being "lost" in the evening, mental health issues can become more prevalent for some people.
Generally, these issues should gradually dissipate as the body adjusts to the time change. And, the good news is that there are ways to help reduce the impact of the start or end of daylight saving time, to make the adjustment gentler on the body. Here are our top tips for making the transition in and out of daylight saving time easier on your body.
1. Gradually adjust your bedtime in the lead up to DST starting in the springtime
Most people look forward to the end of DST in the fall where they'll "gain" an extra hour of sleep. Conversely, in an already sleep-deprived modern world, the transition of "losing" an hour in the springtime can be tough.
One way to make the adjustment gentler on your body is to start preparing for the time change a few weeks in advance. It's probably not going to be as easy to start going to bed a full hour earlier than usual all at once. By making the adjustment more gradual, the goal is to help make the transition more seamless.
Three weeks before DST starts, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual every night, and get up 15 minutes earlier. Two weeks before, sleep and wake another 15 minutes earlier, and then do the same one week before. By the time DST starts, you should be able to go to bed at your usual time, and still wake up when you need to.
2. Create and establish good habits and routines around sleep
To prepare for the above tip, you'll need to establish good sleep habits that will make it easier to fall asleep when you want to. Creating healthy sleep routines and practicing good sleep hygiene in general will help you with DST adjustments and serve you well with getting better sleep throughout the rest of the year. A few sleep habits that may help:
- Exercise during the day to help you get a better night's sleep
- Be consistent with sleep and wake hours
- Keep devices out of the bedroom
- Find ways to effectively manage your stress levels so that stress-related factors aren't stopping you from falling asleep at night
- Minimize your caffeine and alcohol consumption, which can impact your ability to fall asleep, and to get sufficient deep sleep. People who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine and struggle to fall asleep may want to consider eliminating it from their day altogether.
Find out more about a healthy approach to sleep in "6 Common Sleep Myths That You Should Stop Believing."
3. Manage your exposure to light in the evening, especially blue light
One of the main issues with DST is due to the sudden change in daylight hours, and the effect of that light on your circadian rhythm. Here are some additional sleep hygiene tips and considerations for your bedtime routine. These tips are directly related to the effect of light on your body and aim to support your natural circadian rhythm so you can fall asleep and stay asleep more easily.
- Turn off all devices a minimum of one to two hours before bedtime
- If you must use a device in the lead up to bedtime, install an app such as f.lux, which removes blue light from your screen, or consider wearing blue light blocking glasses
- Keep lights low in the evening time, and only turn on a light if you need to (also consider this if you are getting up for the bathroom in the night)
- Sleep in a quiet, dark room, with earplugs, blackout curtains, or an eye mask if needed
4. Get your daily dose of sunlight during the day
A daily dose of sunshine is important for several reasons. In the context of transitioning to DST, it's important for supporting your natural circadian rhythm, and for improving mental health.
Light suppresses melatonin, which is an important hormone for inducing the onset of sleep. Your body wants to be exposed to light during the day, to help it feel alert. Darkness in the evening is important to support your natural body clock.
Be especially aware of getting sufficient sunlight during the day when DST ends and an hour of daylight is "lost." Make it a priority to get out for a walk in the sun during the day, or in the morning. The daylight may already be gone by the time you finish work in the afternoon or evening.
A morning walk can also be useful in the lead up to DST beginning in the springtime to help prepare your body for the increase in light that is soon to come.
5. Maintain consistent routines
Just as it's important to have a consistent and healthy bedtime routine, aim to maintain consistency with other routines. Exercise and eat regularly, and help others in your family to create similar habits. This will help minimize the risk of having tired and irritable children, teenagers, or other family members during the DST transition.
Transition with ease
The above tips should allow for a gentler, more seamless transition in and out of DST time. If you still find yourself feeling tired and wanting a nap, make sure you keep them short so they don't impact your sleep at night. Also consider other ways to lift your energy levels naturally, including optimal hydration, great nutrition, light exercise, fresh air, and time in nature.