When we spring forward to daylight saving time, we lose an hour of sleep. Most of us feel the effect for a few days afterward.
Use these 14 tips to help you spring forward easily and sleep better all year long.
1. Gradually Transition Into the Time Change
To minimize the impact of the switch to daylight saving time, make gradual adjustments. Go to bed (and if you have children, put them to bed) 15 minutes early, starting several days before the change. Make an extra effort to be well-rested the week before the time change.
2. Seek a Little Sunshine
Once daylight saving begins on Sunday morning, step outside and catch some rays after you wake up. The sunlight will help set your body’s internal clock, which controls things like your sleep-wake cycle. Don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.
3. Give Yourself a Sleep Break After the Time Change
If you feel sleepy after the change to daylight saving time, take a short nap in the afternoon -- not too close to bedtime. Avoid sleeping in an hour longer in the mornings. Your internal clock will adjust on its own in several days.
4. Plan to Pace Yourself
Try not to jam-pack your schedule right after the time change. Tackle important to-do’s, like work presentations for the boss, later in the week if you can.
5. Drive Safely, Too
Be extra careful behind the wheel. Save that long-distance road trip for when you’re fully alert, so you lower your chances of getting in a car accident.
6. Know How Much Sleep You Need
Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep to be well-rested, and sleep requirements can change with age. To find your ideal number of hours, sleep without an alarm on weekends and see when you wake up naturally.
7. Keep Regular Sleep Hours
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This helps your body regulate its sleep pattern and get the most out of the hours you sleep. If possible, wake up at the same time on the weekends, too, which makes Monday mornings easier to bear. You can also see how a nap affects your sleep quality. For some, napping can make nighttime sleeping harder; but for others, a short nap (20 minutes) can be revitalizing without ruining their night's sleep.
8. Get Some Exercise During the Day
Even moderate exercise, such as walking, can help you sleep better. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, three times a week or more. If you often don't sleep well, try not to exercise too close to bedtime.
9. Avoid Stimulating Substances
Alcohol and caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some pain relievers) can interfere with sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid alcohol and caffeine for 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Smokers should also avoid tobacco, another stimulant, too close to bedtime.
10. Eat Lightly at Night
If you get hungry, have a snack of easy-to-digest food such as carbohydrates or dairy. Also, avoid too much liquid before bed so that you don't have to wake up to go to the toilet.
11. Relax Before Bed
Stress and overstimulation can make it hard to fall asleep. Try to avoid intense television programs or movies before bed. Relax with a soothing, warm bath and curl up with a book instead.
Worry boosts production of the stress hormone cortisol, which makes you more alert. If anxiety keeps you awake, write out your schedule for the following day before going to bed, including possible solutions to challenges you may face.
If you're worried about hitting a deadline the next day, go to bed early and wake up early to work. Don’t work late into the night. Your mind needs the rest. You may even need less time to finish your work.
12. Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Try sleep shades, earplugs, a white-noise machine, blackout curtains, or all four.
Temperature helps, too: 60-75 degrees is considered the most comfortable. Also, you need a comfortable mattress.
If you have restless or snoring pets, keep them out of your room, along with all electronics, including your television, computer, DVD player, and stereo. Save your bedroom for sleep, sex, and relaxing.
13. Get Up if You Can't Sleep
We've all had those nights when we can't fall asleep or we wake up and can't get our minds to shut down. Avoid watching the clock, which can create more anxiety. If you've been awake more than 20 minutes, get up, go to another room, and do something relaxing to help you get drowsy. Keep the lights low, have some warm milk, read a book, or write about whatever may be on your mind until your eyelids get heavy.
14. Don’t Use Melatonin Supplements or Sleep Aids to Adjust
As tempting as it may be to take a pill for better sleep, when daylight saving time begins, you might wind up with side effects instead of restful shut-eye. Melatonin can sometimes make you feel sleepy during the day. Certain prescription sleeping pills can also make you drowsier or less alert. Some can be addictive, too. Talk to your doctor before you try any sleep aid to learn about the possible side effects and make sure it doesn’t affect other meds you take.