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How to Reset Your Sleep After a Time Change

May 20, 2022
Daylight Saving Time: How to Fix Your Sleep | Sleep Reset

Do you dread “springing forward” every March? If so, you’re not alone. The sleep loss caused by the transition to daylight saving time (DST) is rough! For some people, it can increase symptoms of sleep deprivation, making them feel more irritable, moody, and tired during the day.

If you typically struggle with the DST transition, there’s a scientific reason for this, but there are ways to lessen the negative effects on your body and mind. Fortunately, we have some sleep tips that will help you adjust. First, let’s take a closer look at how daylight saving time affects your sleep cycle and why it matters.

How Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Your Sleep Cycle?

DST starts every second Sunday in March. We set our clocks ahead an hour before going to bed, which means we lose one hour of sleep that night. Similarly, when DST ends on the first Sunday in November, we set our clocks back an hour, giving us one glorious extra hour of sleep.

Although it doesn’t seem like losing one hour of sleep each March would have a big impact on your mental and physical health, this time of year is associated with an uptick in insomnia, mood disorders, heart problems, and even car crashes — all of which highlight the potential effects DST can have on your health.

Essentially, the transition from standard time to DST messes with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, called your circadian rhythm. When this happens, your sleep gets misaligned and can suffer, making you feel more tired and less alert during the day. After DST, your bedtime will feel earlier, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Not to mention, it occurs on a weekend, when people are more likely to stay up late, which can further exacerbate the lack of sleep.

Understanding Circadian Rhythm

Your natural circadian rhythm is a 24-hour biological cycle that helps your body function. Although it’s an internal cycle, it’s influenced by your environment, particularly the light in the morning and the darkness in the evening. 

In short, the whole purpose of your body’s circadian rhythm is to tell it when it’s time to wind down and sleep and when it’s time to wake. At around 9 p.m., your body starts secreting the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep. Melatonin levels start dropping off in the morning, promoting wakefulness and alertness.

Unfortunately, whenever this natural biological cycle is altered (such as during the transition to DST), your body will need some time to adjust. This is why you feel so tired. The good news is that sleep research experts say it usually only takes a day or two for your body’s internal clock to adjust to the change (although some research suggests certain individuals may need a few months to adjust).

What Happens When You Lose an Hour of Sleep?

You might be surprised by the many different ways your body reacts to a lost hour of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to serious health problems, but even one lost hour of sleep will produce unwanted side effects, such as those listed here.

  • Increased caloric intake: Researchers have found that losing an hour of sleep one night means you’re likely to eat about 200 more calories the next day. And you’re most likely to crave high-fat and carb-heavy foods.
  • Reduced stamina: Your physical endurance is also likely to suffer. So when you head to the gym for your daily workout, you’ll likely feel sluggish.
  • Decreased focus: Your performance at work or school will also be affected by the lack of sleep. You may have trouble concentrating, and your mind may wander more than it usually does.

How to Adjust to a Lack of Sleep

You may not be able to completely avoid the dreaded DST hangover, but you can minimize the impact of losing an hour of sleep. Although there’s no magic way to maintain your energy with a lack of sleep, one of the best ways to adjust is to prepare your body for the DST transition several days before it happens. To do so, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally do and wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual. Continue shaving off 15 minutes each day leading up to DST so your body will be relatively acclimated to the change once it occurs.

Also, make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep. You should keep it dark at night to help with your body’s natural production of melatonin, and the temperature should be between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit while you sleep.

Get Your Sleeping Habits Back on Track

After DST starts, it will take some time for you to get your sleep habits back on track. Implementing the following tips will help:

  • Get lots of bright light in the early mornings.
  • Implement a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Take naps if you need to. Just try to keep them short and make sure they’re not too close to your normal bedtime.
  • If you use technology two hours before bedtime, make sure to set your device to dim lighting, and only consume content that won’t produce stress right before bed.
  • Limit caffeine intake in the afternoons and alcohol consumption four hours before bed.
  • Set your alarm to wake you during your lightest cycle of sleep, so you feel more refreshed and awake first thing in the morning.

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Whether you’re struggling with sleep disruptions due to daylight saving time or something else, Sleep Reset can help you get your sleep habits back on track. Our convenient, affordable, and personalized sleep program is backed by scientific research and coupled with dedicated sleep coaching to help you establish sustainable sleep habits that will dramatically change your life for the better.

To get started, take our expert-designed assessment to identify the root causes of your sleep issues and learn more about your sleep patterns.

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