Sleep Care

Spring Forward

Ideas for putting some “spring” into your step Just like clockwork, it’s time to set our clocks forward an hour for Daylight Savings Time. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11 most people in the United States will set their clocks forward by an hour as part of the country’s “spring forward” ritual. However, not all states observe the time change. Residents of Arizona, Hawaii, and U.S. territories Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will remain on their normal schedules. For some people, this time change is a welcome sight because it signals the unofficial start of spring. Additionally, people impacted by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), may begin to notice a lessening in their symptoms. Others will see it simply as a nuisance. But, for many more, this 60-minute deficit is no small matter. In fact, for the more than one-third of Americans

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mood and productivity. Essentially, the time change moves an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, which during the summer months gives us those long summer evenings everyone loves. But moving our clocks in either direction changes our principal time cue — light, which is responsible for setting and resetting our circadian rhythm. According to experts, this new light-dark cycle works against our body clock. And when the sleep-wake and light-dark cycles don’t line up, people feel out-of-sync, tired and even depressed. Additionally, there are number of studies that illustrate just how challenging “springing forward” really is. For instance, one study by Stanford University and John Hopkins University reported more fatal traffic accidents the Monday after the time change. Additionally, Swedish researchers in 2008 said there was a 7 percent increase in heart attacks the Monday after the daylight saving switch. Even Indiana dairy farmers reported issues with their cows saying that milking them an hour early caused the animals to lose sleep and produce less milk. Generally speaking, it takes about one day to adjust for each hour of time change, but this varies from person to person. If you are getting about eight hours of sound sleep and you go to bed a little early the night before the change, you may wake up feeling fine. However, if you are sleep deprived, getting by on just a few hours of sleep a night, you may feel horrible the next day. For this reason, we have compiled some ideas for dealing with the time change that should give you a little “spring” in your step this time around:  

  • Try to get in bed 20 minutes earlier each night until the time change and do the rest of your routines, like eating dinner, a littler earlier each night.
  • Soak up some early morning light on Saturday and Sunday, which can help your brain’s circadian rhythm line up with the new light-dark cycle.
  • Sneak up on Daylight Savings Time by setting your clocks forward during the day on Saturday. By doing so, you will be more likely to turn in early.
  • Skip napping on the Saturday before the time change, but feel free to take a short nap (not too close to bedtime) on the day of the change.
  • Plan a light walk or some other type of moderate exercise the day of the change, but do it early. You want to avoid exercising too close bedtime. About three hours before should be sufficient.
  • Avoid light in the evening especially on Sunday and Monday evenings. Going inside early or closing the blinds will help your body clock adjust. There is always time later to enjoy the long evenings.
  • Keep a light schedule of activities, especially for the first few days after the time change.
  • See your doctor if your sleep schedule is particularly affected by the time change. You may have some underlying issues at play.
  • And finally, don’t worry. You will resume your normal schedule on November 4 when we “fall back.”