Coping with Daylight Savings

“Spring ahead, Fall back.” No biggie, right? The Daylight Savings time change effects us all differently. For some of us, it is just jet lag without the joys of travel. But for others of us, especially those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the loss of that hour is a little more serious. This week, as it starts to get dark in the middle of the afternoon, we look at strategies for coping with Daylight Savings.

If you get enough sleep each night, Daylight Savings will have little effect on you. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, most of us get less than the requisite eight hours of sleep each night. Some of us (as many as 20% of Americans) get less than six hours. If like me, you are one of the 20%, that “Daylight Savings” hour makes a big difference.

Sure it is wonderful to sleep in. The morning after “Fall back” is delightful. Morning people suddenly find themselves with surplus time. We can accomplish so much more before we jump into the shower. But when the end of the day comes so much earlier, we start to wonder about the hidden costs of that surplus.

Darkness, of course, is essential to sleep. As darkness descends, the body starts to physiologically prepare itself for sleep — muscles start to relax, we become drowsy, the body temperature drops a bit. Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland, sends the signal to the brain that it’s time for some shut-eye. But it’s only four c’clock in the afternoon!

Here are some strategies to keep you awake at your desk and on an even keel:

Go to bed earlier – “Early to bed, early to rise” is a real thing, Daylight Savings just takes it over the edge.

Get up earlier – Start to get up a little bit earlier each day. Set your clocks a few minutes earlier each day, let your body gradually acclimatize.

Develop better sleep hygiene – “Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe those actions you can take to create sleep-friendly environments and enhance your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping soundly. Basic sleep hygiene includes reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol, exercising several hours before bedtime, creating calming rituals before bed to gradually relax yourself (taking a hot bath for example), and wearing ear plugs and eye masks, to name a few.” (https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/coping-with-time-changes)

Don’t take naps – “Avoiding naps is key for adjusting to the time change…If you have to take them, take them early and for no longer than 20 minutes. Long naps are a sign of sleep deprivation and other underlying health issues… short naps improve brain function, leaving you refreshed afterward.” (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/03/4-simple-tips-to-deal-with-daylight-savings/)

Use bed only for sleep – In other words, do not bring your screens with you to bed.

Get the same amount of sleep each night – Sleeping in on weekends sounds dreamy, but it can through off your body’s natural rhythms.