On Sunday, we’ll turn our clocks back an hour, marking the end of daylight saving time (DST). For many, including myself, the transition is a welcome one. Who couldn’t use a bonus hour of sleep?
Sleep experts generally concur that the end of DST is a good thing — especially for those of us who suffer from sleep deprivation and might really need that extra hour to build back up their sleep bank. There’s also the scientific argument that DST is potentially disruptive to our wellbeing.
"Circadian research evidence has long shown that standard time is better for human health,” Mairav Cohen-Zion, clinical psychologist and chief science officer of Dayzz. “This is because it is closer to the time of our internal 24-hour master body clock and provides us with more early morning sunlight availability."
Let yourself sleep until your natural waking time on Sunday. Turn off that alarm clock and see how that extra hour feels.
Dr. Myles Spar
But even if the end of DST is a blessing, we can't ignore the fact that any time change presents an adjustment that can affect how we feel and operate.
What can we do in the days leading up to the change to ease the transition?
Moving bedtime back by increments of 15 minutes can be helpful, especially for babies and kids
You may have prepped for the switch to DST by going to bed 15 minutes earlier leading up to the time change. While "springing ahead" is more painful for most than "falling back", this same tactic can be implemented for the end of DST — just in reverse.
Whitney Roban, a psychologist and family, educational and corporate sleep specialist, says to move your bedtime 15 minutes later for a few nights. “By daylight saving on Sunday night, your body will have gradually adjusted to the new time change.”
Shifting your schedule by 15 minutes over the next few days can be especially important for young children, Roban notes — but remember not just to tweak their bedtime, but also other activities as much as possible.
“We want naps, meals and bedtime to all happen 15 minutes later than usual,” says Eva Klein, a certified infant and child sleep consultant and founder of My Sleeping Baby.
If changing up your kid’s schedule is not feasible or brings added stress, Klein says not to worry — just do your best to gradually push naps up, Klein says, “so that she’s back on her previous nap schedule within the week.”
Don’t let weekend staying up/sleeping in serve as a reward for your kids
For the sake of good sleep hygiene, parents might want to urge their children to rise at or around the same time they do during the weekdays.
“One thing I’m working on is not letting staying up late and then sleeping in be a rewards system [for my kids],” says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, MD, and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Southern California. “Instead, organize a family walk in the park on Saturday or Sunday morning.”
Get out in natural light as much as you can
This week — and throughout the winter months in general — it’s recommended that you expose yourself to plenty of natural sunlight (exercising or not) to keep your sleep health on track.
“One of the best things we can do to optimize our sleep and ensure we are alert during the day is to align our sleep with the solar clock. We can do this by amplifying our circadian amplitude, which means increasing our exposure to natural sunlight during the day and decreasing exposure to artificial light after the sun sets,” says Dr. Aneesa Das, MD, a sleep medicine expert and assistant director of the sleep program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Exercise is also key, ideally in the sunlight — the earlier in the day, the better.
Eat breakfast an hour after you wake up
How we eat can also play a role in how well we adjust to the end of DST.
“Circadian rhythms of the human body are controlled by the central clock in the hypothalamus, which is set by light, and by the clocks in peripheral organs such as the liver and skeletal muscles, which are set by feeding and fasting cycles,” explains Nancy Woodbury, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “To synchronize the central and peripheral clocks for optimal metabolic health, people should eat breakfast within an hour after waking up, ideally with the sunrise.”
Curb the caffeine and limit alcohol intake
In these days ahead, you might find yourself especially sensitive to stimulants and relaxants, so go easy on the caffeine and alcohol.
Dr. Christopher J. Drumm, MD, a family medicine practitioner at Norristown Family Physicians points out that alcohol should be limited “because it affects our ability to get into deep sleep."
Avoid screens before bed — including ‘night mode’
Consider this time change a public service announcement reminder of how bad blue light can be for our circadian clocks come bedtime.
Turn off the screens and put away your phone and tablets at “at least 30 minutes before bedtime,” says Smarr. “Using ‘night mode’ that makes your screen look less blue helps your biological clocks wind down, but even that can inhibit melatonin for a little while, so don't use that to get around the 30 minute limit.”
Up the anti-anxiety ante at night
“The biggest cause of sleep problems is stress and anxiety,” says Roban. “Therefore, in that extra hour you gain during ‘fall back’ daylight savings, choosing a relaxing and calming activity is important to help in winding down our brains and bodies. Taking a hot shower/bath helps promote sleep. You can also begin your pre-sleep relaxing activities such as journaling, reading a print book, meditating and stretching. Do whatever you find that relaxes you.”
Go ahead and sleep through that extra hour — you probably need it
As most of the doctors I consulted were quick to point out, the average American is already sleep-deprived and may not even realize it. So, even if you thoroughly prepare for the time change, you might want to go ahead and use that extra hour for blissful sleep.
“Forty percent of Americans get less than the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep a night, so [for many] the best way to use the extra hour we get this weekend is to sleep,” says Dr. Myles Spar, MD, chief medical officer of Vault Health. “Let yourself sleep until your natural waking time on Sunday. Turn off that alarm clock and see how that extra hour feels.”
Das agrees, adding, “in our current sleep deprived society and as a sleep doc, I am in full support of folks catching up on an extra hour of sleep during this time change.”
If, on the other hand, you find yourself waking up an hour earlier with the time change, don’t just lie in bed.
“For the best sleep hygiene, use the bed only for sleeping,” says Dasgupta. “Once you’re awake, get up, start your day and get out in the sunlight.”
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