3 Little Ways to Keep Daylight Savings Time From Messing Up Your Sleep Schedule, According to an Expert

published Mar 11, 2021
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Rest is controversial. It’s something that everyone needs but isn’t actually equally accessible. Research has found correlations between how much money Americans make and how much sleep they get each night (for example, in 2013 about 35 percent of adults below the poverty line reported getting less than six hours of sleep a night), and many people have to work overtime or multiple jobs in order to meet their basic needs before being able to rest. Add in needing to care for children, the stressors of keeping a household afloat, and now Daylight Savings Time, and it’s understandable that many people are likely clambering for every extra hour they can get. 

No matter your job or home situation, you deserve and need sleep. Generally, there are a number of factors that impact whether you sleep well or badly, including your temperature, how much adenosine (a naturally-occurring chemical within the body that impacts sleep behavior) is in your system; your natural circadian rhythms; and daily life experiences, such as good or bad news or the loss of a loved one. Stress and “revenge bedtime procrastination” have likely done a number on your sleep habits in the past year, and now the United States is set to “spring forward” and lose an hour of sleep to account for longer days and shorter nights. 

But there are ways to prepare for Daylight Savings Time that don’t involve oversleeping an hour, or waking up at your “normal” time and feeling groggy all day. I contacted a sleep doctor, Dr. Gholam Motamedi, a neurology professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to ask for tips on how to retain a proper amount of sleep before springing forward thanks to Daylight Savings Time.

Go to bed an hour earlier the night before Daylight Savings Time. 

“The March shift is hard because we’re losing an hour,” Dr. Motamedi tells Apartment Therapy. It’s helpful to prioritize getting a full night’s sleep, even if that means adjusting your schedule slowly but surely in the week before the time change. Spend time away from screens before heading to bed to subconsciously relax your body, and if you can, avoid napping during the day to ensure you aren’t wired when your new bedtime finally rolls around.

Limit your caffeine intake to the morning — or at least eight hours before your bedtime.

Adenosine is a chemical that makes people drowsy by slowing down the activity of their neurons. The buildup of the chemical within your body over time allows you to sleep well. On the other hand, caffeine actively blocks the function of adenosine, thus keeping your neuron activity wired. This is great when you need a pick-me-up to start your day, but it can have the adverse effect of delaying your ability to wind down the closer you get to your bedtime. 

Generally, doctors recommend not drinking caffeine at least eight hours before bed, because that’s about how long it will affect you. Though this tip applies whether we’re experiencing a Daylight Savings Time shift or not, it is even more essential now to get the best rest you can when the clock jumps forward.

But the best Daylight Savings Time prep involves keeping a consistent sleep schedule all week long.

Getting good sleep is a lifestyle, not a one-stop fix — yet most people try to use the weekends to make up for what is known as “sleep debt,” or the lack of sleep they accrue due to working hard during the week. Adding to the common habit of sleeping in to “catch up” on lost sleep — even though that doesn’t technically work — many people will also go to bed late on weekends due to social events, and repeat the cycle when Monday rolls around. 

Instead of opting into this cycle, it’s helpful to choose a consistent time every day to wind down in order to guarantee your body can get into a cycle of rest and awakening. Once you have a routine, you can start slowly shifting the routine 15 minutes earlier in the four days before the Daylight Savings Time shift so that you still get the proper amount of rest despite technically losing an hour on the clock.

Overall, “There is no silver bullet to maintaining a proper sleep schedule in the midst of Daylight Savings Time shift,” Dr. Motamedi says. “In all, you should keep your sleep schedule consistent, whether during the work week or on the weekend to have Daylight Savings Time not throw you off.”