Here's how the pros will cope when they turn their clocks forward this weekend.
Daylight saving time (DST) starts this year on March 11, when we’ll “spring forward” and turn the clocks up an hour, thereby losing an hour of precious, precious sleep.
An hour might not seem like a lot, but the shift to DST has some notable negative effects: Not only is everyone exhausted on the following Monday, we’re more likely to goof off on the internet at work. Heart attacks and car crashes spike as American struggle to adjust their internal clocks to the new time on their watches.
“Most of us end up losing 40 to 50 minutes of sleep those first few days—and as a nation that’s significantly sleep deprived to begin with, even that little change can impact health,” Sandhya Kumar, MD, assistant professor of neurology and medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina told Health in a previous interview.
So what can you do to make the time change a little less terrible? We asked the people who know best—sleep experts—what they do on the nights before and after the switch to daylight saving time. Here’s what we can all learn.
Wake up at your usual time
“Mornings seem to be a good anchor for circadian rhythms, so I recommend people try to maintain their same rise time. You’ll be cutting back on sleep a little bit, but it should help with getting to sleep on Sunday night. You don’t want to allow your body clock to sleep in too late.”
—Mark Muehlbach, PhD, staff clinician and director at the Clayton Sleep Institute Clinics and Insomnia Center and co-director of the CSI Research Center
Adjust your sleep schedule ahead of time to sync up when DST starts
“I slowly adapt my circadian clock to make the transition easy. I go to bed and wake up 15 minutes earlier than normal on Monday before the time change. Tuesday evening, I keep the same bedtime from Monday. Wednesday evening, I go to sleep and wake up 15 minutes earlier again—adjust by 15 minutes every two days until Sunday and you will already be there!”
—Michael J. Breus, PhD, sleep specialist and clinical psychologist
Let the light in
“Exposure to natural light at sunrise and sunset is incredibly helpful and sleep-promoting. I make sure to get my a.m. exercise in those first few days [after DST starts]. I also have been known to sleep outside on my deck around these times.”
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When all else fails, consider a move
“I moved to Arizona almost 30 years ago to avoid the nightmares of daylight saving time. There’s no easy solution except to ditch it.”
—Rubin Naiman, PhD, sleep and dream psychologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine