Sleep Well//

The Best Way to Help Your Body Adjust to Daylight Saving Time

Just because you "spring forward" doesn’t mean you can’t wake up feeling refreshed.

Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock
Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock

Daylight saving time returns on Sunday and as we prepare to set our clocks forward, I am sharing a different point of view from the ubiquitous advice, which typically revolves around adjusting bedtimes and wake-up times. While we all look forward to the longer days and extra sunlight, there is often anxiety about how our bodies will adapt to the shift.

I look forward to the time change every year because it signals seasonal change: wintry mornings transitioning to vibrant spring dawns — the early morning sun streaming in through the window. As the days become brighter and (ultimately) warmer, I am encouraging everyone to view the time change in a positive light, enjoying the later sunsets and increase in daylight. 

The question is: What’s the best possible way to make the daylight saving time transition easier? It’s certainly true that it changes our circadian rhythm, which can disrupt our biological clocks. Performance — whether it’s at work or working out — can be affected, and scientists have shown that among other health problems, at the very least, the time change sometimes leads to sleepiness and increased stress. 

Expert advice on the subject varies. Some suggest going to bed a bit earlier in the days leading up to daylight saving in order to ease your body into the change. But forcing ourselves to go to bed when we are not tired is unlikely to work. 

My own approach is simple and requires no effort: Stick to your regular nighttime and morning routine and follow your body’s natural rhythm. Go to sleep at your normal bedtime, when you are tired, then get up when you wake up — if that’s possible, depending of course on what time you need to be at work. There are no complicated adjustments needed. You’ll likely find that your body will feel the same as usual when you get out of bed. In short, changing your sleep schedule is unnecessary.

The key from my perspective is to relax and trust your internal body clock with the knowledge that it may take a few days to adjust — and that is perfectly fine. Our biological clocks will gradually synchronize to longer daylight periods of their own accord. Daylight saving, scientists say, is essentially like experiencing mild jet lag, but if you don’t worry about it, in most cases, it won’t have a significant detrimental effect.

We’ve been changing the clock twice a year for more than a century — and while there have been campaigns aimed at “stopping the clock,” which would mean staying in daylight saving time all year round, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, so we might as well let go of resistance and accept the change! 

Science aside, I believe our attitude can play a part in the way we adapt. Personally, I rarely use an alarm clock and get up with the sunrise at… 5 a.m. Of course, I am not expecting everyone else to rise with the larks. I am, however, suggesting that we view the time change in a positive way, accepting and even celebrating the onset of a new phase in the year… It may make the transition easier and more fun.

Sleep well, dream big, Shelly.

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