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How to Adjust to March 2021 Daylight Saving

by BetterSleep
Mar 11 • 3 min read

It’s almost time for the annual ritual of springing forward. Setting the clock ahead one hour in the spring is an old tradition that many health experts want to eliminate. This controversial time change disrupts your sleep pattern for days or a week. For some people, it could mean an accident on the way to work or a depression trigger. With careful adjustments and a little planning, you can avoid the worst effects of the time change.

How Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Sleep?

The health effects of daylight saving time changes are well documented. Some of these effects are very serious. For instance, studies have found that the spring time change increases the risk of having a heart attack. Researchers have also shown that traffic accidents increase on the Monday following the time change.

The likely culprit, at least for accidents, is fatigue. If you wake up Monday morning feeling sleepy and find it hard to shake off that tiredness, you’re not alone. Simply put, daylight saving messes with your sleep. In the spring, this is because you lose an hour you would normally spend sleeping. Additionally, it takes time to adjust to a new schedule, making falling asleep difficult for several days following the time change.

Here are some ways you can manage the effects of DST and adapt to the time change with ease.

1. Adjust Bedtime in Advance

If you can, start going to bed a little bit earlier every night leading up to the time change. Even a few minutes each night makes a difference. You’ll have more rest overall, and it will be easier to drift off to sleep after the time change makes sunset later in the evening.

It may also help to allow yourself to wake up a few minutes earlier each day. Resist the urge to give yourself an extra hour the Monday after changing the clock. Small adjustments over a few days are better.

2. Get Sunlight Early

Exposure to sunlight during the day is essential for the body’s internal clock. Inadequate light during the day can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. It’s important to get out in the sun whenever you can, but morning is best. Sunlight will wake you up and set your circadian clock for bedtime later.

3. Get Plenty of Exercise

Combine light exposure with a little exercise. Regular exercise promotes good sleep, but it is especially important as you adjust to a new time on the clock. A good workout during the day will leave you tired and ready to fall asleep at night.

4. Avoid Afternoon Caffeine

While sunlight and physical activity promote sleep, it’s also important to eliminate barriers to sleep. Caffeine is a major sleep barrier for most people. It’s tempting to reach for a coffee during an afternoon slump, but this can impact your ability to sleep hours later. Try to avoid any caffeine past about noon.

5. Stick to a Sleep Routine

A routine approach to sleep is helpful any time of year. As much as possible, and considering the small adjustments for the time change, stick with the same bedtime and wake-up time every day. This holds for weekends, too. The more consistent you are with a routine, the easier it becomes to fall asleep and wake up on time.

Daylight saving is a disruption. To avoid the worst of it, start planning now for how you’ll adjust. Use the above tips to minimize the impact that springing forward can have on your sleep and health.

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