It’s that time of year again. The seasons are changing, the days feel different, and the anticipation builds for change—and then we remember that Daylight Saving Time is upon us. This can be a miserable moment or smooth series of change, but it all depends on your tools for coping. Whether “falling back” or "springing forward" Daylight Saving Time has a significant impact on all of our sleep patterns. Here's how you can hack Daylight Saving Time to sleep better.
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s going to disrupt your sleep, and for most people, it’s a matter of how much, and not avoiding or ignoring the time change altogether.
Daylight Saving Time: When?
First, let’s handle some time change basics. A common question is “What times does Daylight Saving Time start?” Though the specific date is unique every year, Daylight Saving Time always starts at 2 am on the second Sunday in March, and ends on the first Sunday in November at 2 am (we’re referring to the United States in this case).
The idea behind switching in the dead of night on the weekend is to cause as little disruption in our lives as possible. During daylight hours this may be the case—by doing it this way it doesn’t interfere with work, for example—but this biannual disruption of our circadian rhythm (we’ll come back to that) wreaks havoc on our nighttime schedule.
Daylight Saving Time: Why?
Though some argue it’s no longer necessary—visit, for example, the aptly named wedontneeddst.com—the idea behind Daylight Saving Time is to take advantage of more natural sunlight during the day over the summer months. By moving the clocks ahead one hour each March, countries located in the northern hemisphere can receive more sunlight on a daily basis. And the farther you are from the equator, the more sunlight you’ll gain during Daylight Saving Time.
There is research that also shows a reduction in crime thanks to Daylight Saving Time, and in its early years it was championed to conserve energy, though today research is unclear whether or not that is still true in a post-industrial society. In fact, many argue that it disrupts the modern global economy as much as it does sleep.
How To Hack Daylight Savings Time To Sleep Better
The biggest concept surrounding the “When?” and “Why?” questions is sunlight. Since we’re manipulating it for Daylight Saving Time, it’s bound to affect us since light has a significant impact on our circadian rhythm, which is also known as our sleep/wake cycle. Basically, our brains are trained to desire sleep at nightfall and are ready to wake up when the sun rises.
This means that a one-hour change in light really throws us off. So the best way to sleep better when dealing with Daylight Saving Time is to start winding your schedule back in advance. For example, if you consistently go to bed at 10 pm each night, five days before Daylight Saving Time you can start dividing that hour into five equal chunks. On the first day go to sleep 12 minutes early, the second night 12 minutes earlier, ultimately doing the same for the next three days. That way you’re easing into that first Sunday in November instead of doing it all at once.
If 10 pm is your usual bedtime, your schedule would look like this:
Day 1: Go to bed at 9:48 pm
Day 2: Go to bed at 9:36 pm
Day 3: Go to bed at 9:24 pm
Day 4: Go to bed at 9:12 pm
Day 5: Go to bed at 9:00 pm
This way, you’ve effectively spread out the transition between new and old schedules over a few days, instead of biting the bullet and doing it all at once. It’s not necessarily a cure-all for better sleep, but it has the potential to be much less disruptive.
Additional Techniques to Help You Sleep Better
While the scheduling technique described above is our favorite hack, there are other things you can do, including:
Exercise early to force your body to “accept” the time change
Avoid naps or keep them short
Don’t eat too late in the evening
Avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day or evening
Use temperature-regulating systems to get more deep sleep
Utilize sleeping apps
If you’re a regular reader of our posts, these quick tips shouldn’t come as a surprise—we tout them often as good habits for solid sleep even when we’re not staring down Daylight Saving Time. But since we’re all headed for an unavoidable interruption, following these tips more strictly has the potential to help you avoid the post-DST malaise.
When It Comes to DST, the Choice Is Yours
Let’s face it: it’s nice to get all that extra sunlight from March through November, but the bottom line is that the weekends we have to adjust for Daylight Saving Time can be rough. While we stand by winding your schedule back a few days before as a helpful technique, we know it’s not easy. Many people struggle to have a set sleep schedule as it is, and it’s even harder entering a weekend when we often stray from that schedule anyway for a night out on the town. As we said at the start, all we can do is try. So if Daylight Saving Time hurts you more and more with each passing year, it might be worth making that five-day investment to ease the pain.
Do you have any tips for dealing with Daylight Saving Time? If so, we’d love to hear them.