If you’re dreading the prospect of losing an hour of sleep when daylight saving time hits on March 10th, you’re forgiven. A staggering amount of research shows that Americans can’t afford to skimp on shuteye.
Nearly one-third of us get six (or less!) hours of sleep per night, a new study out of Arizona State University finds — that’s an hour less than the 7 or more the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends. Sleep deprivation among teens, in particular, continues to rise at a troubling rate — 73 percent of high school students aren’t getting enough Zs. To put it more bluntly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared inadequate sleep in the United States a “public health problem.”
Springing forward just exacerbates our sleep deficit, robbing us of an extra 15 minutes on the first night of daylight saving time, according to Sleep Number’s proprietary SleepIQ data®, and leading to declining sleep quality for a few months afterwards, as our bedrooms become saturated in sunlight earlier in the morning. And the stakes are pretty high. “The timing of our body chemistry does not adjust immediately when moving the clock forward an hour,” Michael Twery, Ph.D., the director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, tells Thrive Global. Some people may unexpectedly find it more difficult to stay awake, and driving with an earlier nightfall (and less sleep) may prove harder, too, he says.
Indeed, research shows that shaving those 60 minutes from our lives has serious consequences. The loss results in an increased risk of heart attack, more workplace injuries, and reduced productivity, costing the U.S. economy $434 million, according to research compiled from peer reviewed journals by Chmura Economics & Analytics’ “Lost Hour Economic Index.” For teens, the lost hour can result in increased daytime sleepiness, as well as lapses in attention and delayed reaction times while driving, according to a small study conducted by Cornell and Harvard Universities.
To offset the loss and boost your SleepIQ, we consulted with Thrive Global’s Sleep Editor-at-Large, Shelly Ibach, the president and CEO of Sleep Number, and Twery, who offered effective tips on how to effortlessly sync our internal clocks with the sun’s.
1. Prepare for the change
Ibach encourages us to hit the hay 15 to 30 minutes earlier than normal (and to wake 15 to 30 minutes earlier, too) a few nights before the start of daylight saving. “It will ease you into the new light cycle and help you seamlessly adjust to the change in a way that’s renewing,” she says. Twery agrees. “Ready yourself for the time change by getting seven hours of sleep every day and following a regular evening schedule to prepare for sleep,” he says.
Additionally, Ibach offers two tiny behavior changes we can easily implement into our lives to further prep for the time shift: Eat dinner sooner and stop consuming caffeine earlier – at least 6 hours before you go to bed, which is the time it takes caffeine to fully flush out of your system. Twery seconds that, advising us to eschew “alcohol, stimulants, or heavy meals.”
Simple daily adjustments like these will help you sleep better overall and lessen the pain of the time change. “I’m a big believer in the powerful impact that small changes can have on our lives and well-being, and thus on society as a whole,” Ibach says.
2. Adjust the light in your surroundings
An hour before you go to sleep, Ibach suggests dimming the lights. “This will let your internal clock know it’s time for bed and set you up for quality sleep,” she says.
Do the exact opposite when it’s time to rise and shine — roll up those blinds and soak up that sun — to acclimate to the early morning brightness. As we take a moment to adjust to the saturation of sunlight, Ibach encourages us to use it as an opportunity to meditate on gratitude. “I start each day with gratitude while being inspired by the sunrise,” she says. “It helps me to bring my best self forward.”
3. Take a nap
If you can find the time, even if it’s as brief as 10 minutes, recoup the sleep you’ve lost with a catnap, Ibach suggests. Science shows that quick naps (as brief as 7 minutes!) improve cognitive function, including alertness. Just be sure not to nap beyond the early afternoon, Ibach warns, so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep. “Quality sleep is the single most effective way to renew your mind, body and soul,” she says.
Incorporating these small changes into your life may just trick you into believing you haven’t lost a minute of sleep, let alone an hour. *
Footnote: Aggregate data compiled from SleepIQ technology