3 tips for managing the time change

An extra hour of sleep — it sounds heavenly. But the end of daylight saving time, just like the beginning in the spring, can wreak havoc on your sleep. Fortunately, there are ways you can ease the transition.

Daylight saving time officially ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6, meaning it’s time to roll our clocks back an hour. While it may seem easy enough to reset clocks and watches to a new time, it’s also important to reset your body’s clock.

Where did daylight saving time come from in the first place? It was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin way back in the 1700s, but was implemented in the United States in 1966 as a way to save energy by increasing the number of morning daylight hours.

When we “fall back,” the sun is already rising (or has already risen) when many of us wake up, but it also sets earlier, meaning it may be dark when we get off work. These changes to light mess with our body’s natural rhythms, a 24-hour cycle known as circadian rhythms.
Tackle this fall’s time change with these tips:

  1. Don’t stay up late on Saturday night. While you might think that you’re going to gain an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning, you may not. In many cases, your body’s circadian rhythms will still wake you up at your usual time on Sunday morning, with no consideration for the time change.If you stay up late but still wake up around the same time, you’ll run the risk of feeling fatigued right off the bat. Instead, go to sleep at your usual time. You may wake up an hour “earlier” based on the clock, and you can use that extra hour of energy and sunlight to your advantage. Why not head out for an early morning walk?
  2. Help your body adjust. No matter your usual sleep habits, it’s normal to have difficulty adjusting to the time change. In fact, the time change can seem like a milder version of the jet lag you experience when flying from one time zone to another.If your schedule allows, tweak your usual bedtime for a night or two in advance of the time change. On the first night, go to bed 15 minutes later than usual and wake up 15 minutes later the following morning. On the second night, make it 30 minutes later, waking up 30 minutes later the next morning. This will help your body begin to acclimate to the time change.
  3.  Pay attention to light. In a world where clocks aren’t present, the body’s circadian rhythms wake you when it’s light and make you sleepy when it’s dark. They’re tied directly to light exposure.

Once we fall back, help your body settle into the natural rhythm of things by “seeking the light” first thing each morning. Open up the blinds and let the morning sun in early to help your body awaken. Head outdoors if you can for some additional sun exposure. (An added benefit: Exposure to the light can help stave off seasonal affective disorder.)

In the evenings, flip the table — dim the lights in your home and limit your media usage, which exposes your body to unnatural light. These habits will help your body ease into sleep.

Don’t think you’re getting your best sleep? We can help. The Erlanger North Sleep Disorders Center offers diagnosis and treatment for a full range of sleep disorders.