Daylight Saving Time Starts March 12—Here's How to Recover From Losing an Hour of Sleep

Spring forward—without the fatigue.

Photo: Olivia Barr

This year, daylight saving time starts on Sunday, March 12, which means at 2 a.m. local time, the clock jumps ahead to 3 a.m. (or you manually set it to an hour later). That means it gets dark an hour later in the evening but, on the downside, we lose an hour of precious sleep—something over one-third of U.S. adults already don't get enough of, according to the CDC. And when you regularly don't sleep well or long enough, you don't just feel bad physically (sluggish, groggy, tired): Everything from your immune system to your mood, appetite, and memory starts to suffer.

But don't panic if you're not your usual bright-eyed and bushy-tailed self on the morning of March 13 (or 14, or 15). Research from the Better Sleep Council found that 40 percent of Americans need a week to recover from that lost hour, if not longer. There's always a natural adjustment period at the onset of daylight saving time, so give your body time to acclimate.

In the meantime, our experts share several proactive strategies to help get your internal body clock on the right schedule and recover that lost hour of sleep in a day or so.

01 of 07

Get your steps in, but not too late in the day.

Significant research shows that getting enough regular exercise can promote sleep and improve sleep quality. Whether it's a hard-core HIIT class or a 30-minute stroll around the farmers 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. Ideally, "Get some exercise outside in the sun between 1 and 3 p.m. to lower the small melatonin spike," says Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist, sleep specialist, and sleep expert for Oura.

02 of 07

Skip afternoon caffeine.

Caffeine can take up to 12 hours to leave the body, according to 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 past noon. Remember that caffeine also comes in many forms besides coffee: certain sodas, teas, chocolate, and even over-the-counter medicines.

03 of 07

Expose yourself to plenty of sunlight.

"On the day of the change (Sunday), get outside and get plenty of exposure to natural light," says Rebecca Robbins, PhD, a sleep scientist, instructor at Harvard Medical School, and sleep expert for Oura. "Being outdoors and gaining exposure to bright, natural light provides natural energy and helps sync your circadian rhythm to the new time." As soon as you wake up after the time change, head outside for a hit of natural light to train your body to adjust: Walk the dog around the block, grab the newspaper at the end of the driveway, or go grab a coffee.

04 of 07

Don't eat a large meal or drink a lot right before bed.

This may be a tough one for late-night snackers but, according to the Better Sleep Council, food and drink consumption can disrupt sleep, so they recommend eating no later than three hours before going to sleep.

"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 bit of healthy cheese.

05 of 07

Sneak in a short nap (if possible).

Super sleepy after DST starts? The Better Sleep Council insists naps aren't just for kids. They suggest taking a nap for 15 to 20 minutes. That short time to refresh can be a huge relief for a sleep-deprived person. Just make sure you're not napping too late in the evening, which can make falling asleep at night even harder. The BSC suggests 2 p.m. is the optimal nap time to match your natural circadian rhythm.

06 of 07

Stop using your phone right before bed.

To get back on a good sleep schedule, stop using phones and laptops for at least an hour before going to sleep. Consuming information from devices is mentally stimulating, and the blue light they emit is 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 melatonin production and makes it more difficult to fall and stay asleep."

Instead of watching TV, texting, or scrolling, establish a calming, device-free routine leading into lights-out. "Thirty minutes before bedtime, commit to a set of soothing activities that relax you—reading a book, practicing mindfulness or breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath," Robbins recommends. "We need that time to transition from our day into sleep."

07 of 07

Don't sleep in or 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 the 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 (yes, even on the weekend!) is one of the best ways to train yourself to fall asleep at the same time every night. Letting yourself sleep in until different, random times each morning makes 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.

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