Ease Your Way to Daylight-Saving Time

Experts share tips for springing forward without losing a step.

From the WebMD Archives


Survival Tips

How to offset Monday-morning drag?

  • Prepare yourself! Make the time change incrementally beforehand. "Set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier and earlier for five days or so," Sassower suggests. "It helps. When the time change hits, you're already there. It's the same advice I give to people who are traveling out of the country."

Indeed, daylight-saving time is much like jet lag -- "the older you are, the more difficulty you will have," says Dennis H. Nicholson, MD, director of Sleep Disorders Center at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in California. "It will take one to two days to reprogram."

On Saturday:

  • Around midday, get some vigorous exercise. "Exercise helps advance the body clock, just as bright light exposure does," says Glass.
  • Don't exercise too late in the day. "Exercise raises your body temperature," explains Nicholson. "People get sleepy as their body temperature goes down, not when it's elevated."

Sunday morning:

  • Get up at your regular time -- whether you had a good night's sleep or not. "Don't let yourself sleep in," says Nicholson. "If you stay in bed, your body will never adjust."
  • Spend an hour or more outside, preferably in the sunshine. "That's hard for folks to do, but it's very important," Glass says. "Sunlight is especially helpful in advancing your body clock."
  • Take a morning walk. After a short night, walking is an easy exercise that will help advance your body clock, says Glass.

Good "sleep hygiene" also helps:

  • Don't eat a heavy meal before bedtime.
  • Don't drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol.
  • Don't nap during the day, or at least keep it brief -- 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Stop working on any task an hour before bedtime to calm down.
  • Don't discuss emotional issues at bedtime.
  • Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable.
  • Don't turn lights on at night. Use a small night-light instead.

What About Melatonin?

Taking a melatonin supplement (1 to 3 milligrams) one hour before bedtime might also ease the time change, Glass suggests. However, studies of melatonin have had mixed results.

Melatonin supplements are sold over the counter as dietary supplements and aren't held to the same FDA standards as prescription drugs. Some studies showed that supplements don't help with sleep problems, but others suggested that melatonin might ease jet lag and have a modest effect with insomnia.

Carefully timed daylight exposure works just as well -- helping regulate melatonin that the body naturally produces, Nicholson explains. "When we're exposed to daylight early in the day, the release of melatonin is suppressed. As daylight dims in the evening, melatonin is released. It's daylight that [controls] the sleep cycle."

If you continue having difficulty adjusting to daylight-saving time, call an accredited sleep center or a sleep specialist, Nicholson adds.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 13, 2008


SOURCES: News release, American Academy of Sleep Medicine. David Glass, PhD, professor of biological sciences, Kent State University, Ohio. Dennis H. Nicholson, MD, director, Sleep Disorders Center, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, California. Kenneth Sassower, MD, staff neurologist, Sleep Disorders Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital; neurology instructor, Harvard Medical School. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Sleep Disorders: Tips for a Good Night's Sleep." WebMD Medical News: "Melatonin for Travelers' Sleep Woes?"

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