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How to Get Great Sleep During Daylight Savings Time

Daylight savings time can definitely impact your sleep... These tips can help!

Sonja Langford/Unsplash
Source: Sonja Langford/Unsplash

What can you do to avoid the sleep deprivation that may occur after the time change?

Whether you are preparing to lose an hour as you transition into daylight savings time or gain one as you return to standard time, the time shift can be disorienting and rough on your sleep.

To avoid any post-daylight savings time sleep problems, all you need to do is make some easy changes to your sleep hygiene and bedtime routine. These can help you sleep better whether you’re waking up to sunshine, or to darkness.

1. Follow a Consistent Sleep Schedule— Preferably According to Your Chronotype

Your chronotype is your body’s natural inclination to be awake or asleep at certain times of day. Your chronotype is one of the biggest determining factors not only for your sleep schedule, but for your ideal windows of productivity.

However, if you already know your chronotype but can’t follow that schedule due to work, social commitments, or other conflicts, it’s vital to still follow a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends or days without strict scheduling.

Remember: The more consistent your sleep schedule is, the easier it is to fall asleep and to wake up!

2. Eliminate Blue Light at Night

Blue light exposure is important for maintaining your circadian rhythm. However, too much blue light exposure at night can delay melatonin production and keep you awake.

You want your melatonin production to start early because if it is still running when you wake up in the dark, it makes it far more difficult to wake up. This will allow you to fall asleep more quickly, which will also allow you to wake up more easily.

The best way to eliminate blue light at night is to stop using all your electronic devices 60 to 90 minutes before bed. This includes your phone, your computer, and even your TV.

3. Bring on the Morning Light!

As I said above, blue light exposure at night can make it harder to get the restful sleep you need each night. Well, it is the opposite in the mornings. Blue light in the morning turns off the melatonin faucet, making it easier to wake up.

The best way to get this is with morning light outside.

It does not have to be direct exposure though— you can do this while you are brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, or doing other morning activities.

4. Listen to Some Music

Music can evoke many emotions, so why not play something that helps wake you up in the morning? Is there a song that brings back some nostalgic memories for you? Do you have a workout playlist? Using music that moves you can definitely help you wake up in the morning, give it a try.

If you enjoy listening to music around bedtime though, you may want to be careful what you choose. A recent study from Baylor University found that listening to catchy music before bed can make you much more likely to experience poor sleep. Participants who had a catchy song in their heads around bedtime had more trouble falling asleep, woke up more during the night, and spent more time in light sleep stages instead of more restful deep sleep.

5. Take a Cool— Not Cold— Shower In the Morning

It turns out that temperature can also be used when trying to gain a level of alertness, and cold works well. And while a cool shower may not sound ideal first thing in the morning, it can wake you right up. The cool water improves your circulation, which also boosts your alertness— both of which are helpful for morning wake-ups!

Go ahead and take your morning shower as normal, and for the last minute, slowly turn the handle to make the water gradually cooler. You want to make it mildly uncomfortable, but not unbearable.

6. Eat The Right Breakfast

Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day. And it’s true! What you have for breakfast can make or break how well you wake up each morning. Here are some guidelines you can follow to make sure your breakfast can help you wake up and be ready to take on the day.

  • Avoid carbs in the morning, because they can make you sleepy. If you eat a muffin or a bagel, you might as well be taking a sleeping pill after you wake up. Instead, look for a light high protein, high-fat breakfast for your morning energy.
  • If you’re a coffee drinker, wait until 90 minutes after you wake up to enjoy your first cup. The timing is important since you want the caffeine to give you that boost of energy right as your cortisol lowers in order to get it back up again.

When Daylight Savings Time Begins

Here are my suggestions:

  • On Monday, eat dinner 15 minutes earlier than normal, and go to bed 15 minutes earlier than normal— no more, no less. Don’t worry if you don’t fall asleep right away, but be in bed, and lights out.
  • On Tuesday, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and go over to the window to get 15 min of sunlight while drinking a bottle of water or go outside for a quick 15-minute walk. If you find that difficult, you can use a specialty lightbox or bulb like I talked about above to help you wake up. Keep the same bedtime from Monday.
  • On Wednesday and Thursday, go to bed 20 minutes earlier, then another 20 minutes earlier Friday and Saturday. This will help your body adjust to the difference easier.
  • Immediately change the time on your bedroom clock when you wake up on Sunday morning. This helps your brain visualize the time change and adjust quicker.
  • In the three days before the time change, eat lunch and dinner 30-60 minutes earlier. This will help get your other daily routines in sync for the new time change. Around this time, you’ll also want to stop drinking caffeinated beverages at 1:00 PM to help with the earlier bedtime.

A few other guidelines I recommend you follow include:

  • If possible, avoid alcohol during the weekend of the time change.
  • For better sleep quality, keep up your exercise routine during the week. Maybe throw in an extra workout that weekend too.
  • On the morning of the time change, make sure you get sunlight to help reset your body clock.

Don’t Lose Sleep Over Daylight Savings Time!

The time change from daylight savings time can wreak havoc on your internal clock, but it doesn’t have to. You can get good sleep even as your body adjusts to the clock change. Give some of these tips a try and you can keep getting the restful sleep you need even as the daylight hours change.

More from Michael J. Breus Ph.D.
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