Strategies to Adapt to Daylight Savings Time

daylight savings

I’ve got a fun theme coming up for the rest of this week, on re-emergence–how to shake off the heaviness of our pandemic winter and use this particular spring as an opportunity to be a better version of yourself. Those episodes will start tomorrow. TODAY, the first work day since daylight savings time began, I’m sharing three smart strategies that will help you adapt to daylight savings time and minimize the aftershocks of moving the clocks forward a full hour in one night.

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You may be thinking, what’s the big deal about daylight savings? I’m pumped for the longer days. 

Well, your body has an internal clock that is finely attuned to the amount of light you’re exposed to every day. Once we pass the winter solstice in December, days get 2 minutes and eight seconds longer every day until the summer solstice in June. That gradual change helps our master clock adjust our levels of neurochemicals such as melatonin, which has many functions in the body. It’s a powerful antioxidant, for example–including helping us fall and stay asleep. 

In order to adapt to daylight savings time we make one month of changes in day length in one night. It’s completely understandable and natural that it would cause a hiccup in our internal rhythms. Causing lost sleep and all the side effects that come with that–foggy thinking, slower reaction times, and mood disruptions. This goes for everyone–adults and kids, even animals who are reliant on humans for their schedules, like pets and farm animals. 

Research shows that this disruption takes a toll

There are more car accidents in the days after the clocks roll back, probably because that extra tiredness makes it harder to concentrate and react. A study out of Sweden found that heart attacks go up in those first few days, too. And an Australian study showed an increase in suicides shortly after the clocks go back. 

So if you feel whacked out today and the days that follow, it’s not all in your head! Your appetite will likely be off, too. I notice that I’m starving for lunch by 11 for many days after the switch. It’s like our bodies are living in a parallel universe where it’s one hour ago. 

There are ways to mitigate this effect, and I’ve got three powerful strategies to help you adapt to daylight savings time that most people aren’t talking about (and I went and read a bunch of articles on how to adjust to daylight savings). 

Number one is to stop drinking caffeine by 11 in the morning for the rest of this week.

Because caffeine has a half-life of five hours, you really don’t want to be drinking it after 12 pm if you want it to be fully out of your system by bedtime. But because noon is now 11 am according to your body, that’s when you want to end your caffeine intake for the day. That may mean you feel sleepy at the end of the day, but that’s ok. You have every gosh darn right to feel sleepy.

And tiredness can work against you. Often times, when you stay up too late past the time that you’re naturally sleepy, you get a second wind. You don’t want to be dealing with that phenomenon on top of adjusting to DST. You really want to allow yourself to feel fully drowsy so that you’ll get in bed before your regular bed time–which, for this week anyway, isn’t your true physiological bedtime, it’s an hour later. 

Number 2 is to skip wine or alcohol for tonight and the next couple of nights, if at all possible.

(I realize this is a big ask for some folks.) This sound tough, but hear me out. Alcohol impairs your sleep. As someone who did a Dry January, I was shocked to see how much better I slept when I didn’t drink. That’s because alcohol is a depressant. You may pass out easily after a glass or two. But as you metabolize the alcohol and sober up, you also become more wakeful. Then, boom, it’s 2 am and you’re staring at the ceiling. While your body is acclimating to the new regime, give it the conditions it needs to sleep soundly. You may end up liking how much rest you get so much that you decide to extend how long you go without drinking, but hey, I’m not asking for a long-term commitment here. Just a night or two or three. 

And number 3, get off your screens an hour earlier than you normally do for the next couple of nights to help adapt to daylight savings time.

Read that book that’s been on your nightstand forever. If you just can’t bear to do this, even for a night or two, make SURE that you’ve adjusted the settings on your device to night shift, which blocks the blue light emitted by your screen, because it’s the blue light that’s stimulating to your pineal gland, which is the part of your brain that regulates your internal clock. OR, you can wear some of those orange or red tinted glasses to block the blue light. This is something you should do every night, frankly, but you really want to be extra on point about it tonight and the next couple of nights and switch off the screens two hours before your normal bedtime. 

The whole point of these three strategies is to let yourself adapt to daylight savings time

For many people it only takes a couple days to acclimate. Night owls tend to have a harder time, and really sensitive people–and I count myself in this group–can feel out of sorts for a couple of weeks. 

Making sure you finish up your caffeine intake by 11 am, skipping wine, and really being disciplined about getting off screens an hour earlier than you normally do for the next handful of nights will help your body feel how tired it truly is at the time when it is ready to naturally fall asleep so that you get the rest you need to acclimate to the new time paradigm without it taking a negative toll on your wellbeing. 

Think of these next couple days as a buffer zone when your parallel universe and the real world can gradually intermingle until your internal clock catches up to the external clock. Your sleep, your mood, and your thinking will thank you. 

Come back tomorrow, when I’m talking about things to keep in mind as we re-emerge from spring and the lockdowns, specifically something to keep in mind as you start having real-life interactions again. 

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