Daylight Saving Time Starts This Weekend—Here's What to Know and How to Recover From Losing an Hour of Sleep
Spring forward—without the fatigue.
Daylight saving time in 2021 begins this Sunday, March 14, which means at 2 a.m. local time your clock will jump ahead to 3 a.m.—or you'll need to remember to change it to an hour later manually. Happily, the start of daylight saving time means the days will finally start getting longer and the light will stick around even later, but it also means we'll lose an hour of precious sleep (something one-third of U.S. adults already don't get enough of, according to the CDC). Springing forward with the clocks can be particularly difficult for parents, since making sure their kids are getting enough sleep is a challenge already.
But don't panic if you're not your usual bright-eyed and bushy-tailed self on the morning of March 14 (or 15, or 16). Research from the Better Sleep Council finds that 60 percent of Americans need at least one day to recover from that lost hour, while about half of that contingent require at least three days. There's always a natural adjustment period at the onset of daylight saving time (and especially so during this exceptional time), so give your body a moment to acclimate. In the meantime, there are several proactive strategies to help get your internal body clock on the right schedule, so you're only feeling that lost hour for a day or so.
Get your steps in, but not too late in the day.
Significant research shows that getting enough regular exercise can help promote sleep and improve sleep quality. Whether your speed is more hard-core HIIT class or a 20-minute stroll around the farmer's market, keep active during the day so your body and mind crave rest even more at night. The Better Sleep Council recommends getting a sweat in no later than two hours before bedtime so your body has time cool down and relax.
Skip afternoon caffeine.
Caffeine can take up to 12 hours to leave the body, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, a clinical psychologist specializing in behavioral sleep medicine. Even if you swear caffeine doesn't affect you that much, to establish a healthy sleep/wake routine—before and after daylight saving time—you're smart to avoid it after the morning. And remember that caffeine comes in many forms besides coffee: certain sodas, teas, chocolate, and even over-the-counter medicines.
Don't eat a large meal or drink a lot right before bed.
This will be a tough one for late-night snackers, but try your hardest to eat at least three hours before going to sleep. Food and drink consumption can disrupt sleep, according to the Better Sleep Council.
"This refers to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks," Harris explains. "Liquid intake at night often leads to more bathroom trips and sleep disruption. Alcohol, in particular, can help some fall asleep faster, but the sleep quality ends up being much lighter and broken throughout the night."
If you're hungry before bed, Harris recommends satisfying your appetite with a snack with both protein and carbohydrates. Try a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter or whole wheat crackers with a bite of low-fat cheese.
Sneak in a nap (if possible).
Super sleepy after daylight saving time? The Better Sleep Council insists naps aren't just for kids. Short naps that range between 10 and 30 minutes can provide enough energy to help a sleep deprived person last an extra two and a half hours. Just make sure you're not napping late in the evening, which can make falling asleep for the night even harder.
Stop using your phone right before bed.
To get back on a good sleep schedule, stop using phones and laptops at least an hour before going to sleep. Consuming information from devices is mentally stimulating, while the blue light they emit is also a sleep inhibitor. "Our brains naturally make melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone that comes out in our brain when the sun sets," Harris says. "Using devices with blue light suppresses our brain’s own melatonin production and makes it more difficult to fall and stay asleep."
Don't hit snooze!
A little advice from the Better Sleep Council: Break the habit of hitting snooze. Instead, set your alarm for 10 minutes later than usual and place it out of reach (read: not on your bedside table).
"Continuing to hit snooze will impact the hormonal switch that tells your body to wake up," advises BSC. Avoid messing with your natural melatonin cycle by getting up the first time you hear your alarm.
What's more, waking up at the same time every day is one of the best ways to train yourself to fall asleep at the same time every night. Letting yourself snooze to different, random times each morning will make it harder to drift off to sleep—and so the cycle continues. No matter how tired you are from losing that hour of sleep, force yourself out of bed in the morning to start readjusting your sleep/wake cycle ASAP.
If mornings are particularly rough for you, Harris recommends using light, either in addition to or in lieu of a standard alarm noise, to make waking up less disruptive. She recommends treating yourself to a smart lighting device, like the Amazon Echo Show 5. "With the Echo Show, you can automatically turn on your lights to a certain brightness and color every morning. It has built-in wake up lighting that gradually lights up your room leading up to the time you want to wake up," she says. "Setting a timer to go off every morning at the same time will help your body know when the morning has come, taking away the pressure to know the time throughout the night."