Survive Daylight Savings 'Spring Forward' Without Skewing Your Sleep

It seems like only a few weeks ago we all “fell back” for Daylight Savings. Now, we’re getting ready to “spring forward.” Given the choice between the two, most people tend to prefer falling back, since it means they get an extra hour of sleep! In fact, many people dread springing forward because it effectively means losing an hour.

Springing forward and losing an hour is difficult for so many reasons. You’re likely to feel that “missing” hour when you wake up groggy the next morning! The shift in daylight also affects us. Sure, there’s more daylight after you get home from work, but you’re waking up to darkness each morning, which goes against our bodies’ natural waking mechanisms. Simply put: the shift to Daylight Savings throws a wrench into your circadian rhythm!

The feeling of “jet lag”

The disruption to your sleep schedule, combined with the shift in daylight from morning to evening, creates a feeling akin to jet lag. You might feel lethargic and disoriented for a day or two. Your demeanor might be more irritable or cranky. You might even have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up.

It’s hard to get your sleep back on track and restore your natural daily energy. The key isn’t to recover from the spring forward, but rather to anticipate and plan for it. Rather than adjusting to the disruptive nature of Daylight Savings, you can take steps to get ahead of it—often in the same way you’d prepare to combat jet lag after a long flight.

Don’t sacrifice your sleep

Rather than sit back and let spring rob you of an hour of sleep, it’s time to start banking time!

The concept of sleep banking is a controversial one, but most sleep researchers agree that a small amount of sleep banking is possible. An extra 15 minutes here and there really adds up over the course of a week—especially when you’re set to lose an hour at the end of it. Try going to bed 15-30 minutes earlier each night leading up to the spring forward. Giving yourself a little buffer of extra sleep can help cushion the blow of losing an hour.

In addition to banking small increments of sleep, try to also go to bed an hour earlier on the night of the time change. Done right, you might wake up feeling well-rested, like you didn’t lose any sleep at all!

Let a little light in

As mentioned, waking up can be more difficult after the spring forward, largely because there’s less morning light. If you’re someone who needs natural light to wake up, it might be time to invest in a light box.

Light boxes mimic natural sunlight and can help ease your body awake on-schedule in the morning. They’re also good for mood management! You’re less likely to wake up feeling cranky or sad when natural light is your alarm clock. And, a light box is a great way to keep your circadian rhythm consistent in a way that’s less artificial than an alarm clock.

A nap isn’t the worst thing in the world

Napping can be a great way to reacclimate your body after jet lag. It’s the same for Daylight Savings. Consider a 45-90-minute nap midday after the time change to give your body a chance to recuperate. Be warned though—napping for too long or too late in the day will only make it harder to fall asleep later in the evening.

It’s best to nap only if you’re really struggling. Forcing your body to sleep when it doesn’t have to will only further skew your sleep schedule.

Your body will naturally adapt

For most people, the disorientation of losing an hour of sleep passes in just a few days. Mid-week, they start to feel right as rain again. But for others, it can take longer. If you’re already having trouble sleeping, Daylight Savings time can send you into a serious sleep debt.

It’s important to monitor how rested you’re feeling each morning. If it’s four or five days since springing forward and you’re still dragging through the days, consider adjusting your sleep schedule. Go to bed an hour earlier, take a cat nap after work or try to tire yourself out before bed to get restful sleep. Eventually, your body will adjust—you just need to take steps to help it.

It’s never pleasant to wake up an hour earlier than you anticipated, but it’s something we all have to face at least once per year. With the spring forward coming up, it’s time to steel yourself for a change in your sleep schedule. Thankfully, with a little preparation, you can avoid paying the sandman a tax on your precious sleep this spring.

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