Ease Your Way to Daylight-Saving Time

Experts share tips for springing forward without losing a step.

From the WebMD Archives

It's the wicked tradition of springtime -- setting the clock forward. Spring forward? For most of us, it's more like stumbling sideways into daylight-saving time.

This year, the joy occurs before winter has a good chance to thaw. Prepare yourself -- it's this weekend when we reset the alarm clock.

Daylight-saving time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Losing an hour's sleep isn't easy for an already sleep-deprived nation.

You know the drill: On Monday morning, you hit the snooze too many times, stagger out of bed, grab an extra cup of coffee -- and push yourself into summer mode. But take heart. Those first few mornings don't have to be dire, if you plan ahead. A few strategic steps will help your body adjust quite easily, according to snooze experts with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"Come Monday morning, you might be the only bright-eyed and bushy-tailed employee at the office," said Ralph Downey, III, PhD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., in a news release.

Mother Nature vs. the Alarm Clock

Here's what you're up against: The advent of daylight-saving time is a double-whammy for the human body, says David Glass, PhD, a biological sciences professor at Kent State University in Ohio.

"In the spring, we not only have to get up an hour early -- but we're also fighting the extra 20 or 30 minutes of sleep our bodies naturally want every day," he tells WebMD. "In the fall, the time change is more in line with our internal clock." Are you sabotaging your sleep? Take the quiz.

The body is wired with a sleep-wake cycle that advances a bit every 24 hours, Glass explains. "If I put you in a dimly lit cave, where you didn't know what time it was, you would get up 20 to 30 minutes later every day." Daylight reins in this natural tendency because daylight controls melatonin, a hormone made by the brain that helps regulate our sleep cycles.

But there's more: We've also got "Sunday night syndrome" working against us, says Kenneth Sassower, MD, a staff neurologist in the Sleep Disorders Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, and neurology instructor at Harvard Medical School.

"Studies show that Sunday nights are the worst nights to fall asleep, even when it's not daylight-saving time," Sassower tells WebMD. "If you've stayed up late, slept in all weekend, by Monday morning you're exhausted. Your body clock is disrupted, so you aren't ready to get up when the alarm goes off."