Getting adjusted to shifts in sleep patterns isn’t easy – particularly when they’re forced upon us like they were this weekend with the switch to Daylight Savings Time. While most of us are probably enjoying the extra hour of daylight every evening, our bodies may have trouble adjusting to the time change. That’s why we’ve consulted with our resident sleep expert, Dr. Alberto Santos for some sound advice to get us through the week.
Daylight Savings Time = Similar to Jetlag
The switch to Daylight Savings Time is a little like having jetlag. We know our bodies will adjust after several days, but the process of getting there may feel overwhelming. The recent “spring forward” transition to Daylight Savings Time is like traveling from Texas to North Carolina.
In other words, you’ve got to head to bed one hour earlier than your brain and body is used to in the spring. This can be even more difficult now, since the extra daylight can “trick” you into thinking it’s earlier than it actually is – which can put you behind schedule. Before you know it, you could be up two hours past bedtime before you stop to notice you’re tired.
Research tells us that the springtime change is a bit more difficult than ‘falling back’ for people. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to make the transition easier on you and your family.
3 Tips for Adjusting to Daylight Savings Time
Some tips for staying on track this week include:
#1 – Stay on Schedule.
While this is always an important sleep habit, this week it’s more important than ever. Even though the time on the clocks has changed, you need to stick to your regular bedtime schedule and routine. This means going to bed and waking at the same time (on the clock) every night and every morning. Doing so will help you adjust to the time change more quickly.
#2 – Adjust the Lighting.
Your ability to sleep is greatly impacted by light – natural or otherwise. That’s why I recommend closing the blinds and dimming the lights an hour before bedtime – even if it’s still light outside. This can help your brain and body recognize that bedtime is near. Similarly, if you’re having trouble getting up in the morning, turn on a dim lamp or hallway light before you get out of bed to help signal to your brain that it’s time to get moving.
#3 – Limit the Caffeine.
For this week especially, it’s best to limit your caffeine intake – particularly in the afternoon. Caffeine can have a significant impact on your ability to fall asleep – and that’s already likely to be a challenge this week. So, while some caffeine in the morning is OK, keep it decaf in the afternoon and evenings.
Sleep Medicine at WakeMed
About Alberto Santos, MD
Dr. Alberto Santos is a board certified physician in sleep medicine and neurology. He brings decades of experience in treating a broad range of sleep disorders and related neurological conditions – often in partnership with pulmonologists and other specialists.
His specialties include the treatment and diagnosis of sleep disorders including sleep apnea, snoring, CPAP/BiPAP issues, REM behavior disorder, daytime sleepiness and restless leg syndrome.