It’s that time of year where the clocks change. Luckily, daylight savings time just ended, meaning we all get an extra hour of sleep. And even better, moving the clocks back is easier than moving the clocks forward.
But even though we gained an hour, this doesn’t mean it’s an easy transition. Twice a year we subject our bodies to a sort of involuntary jet lag. And the effects of this sudden change can impact our sleep for a few weeks.
And when our sleep is impacted, almost every other aspect of our life is impacted too. This includes our eating schedules, when we feel tired, our work performance, and our mood.
In order to minimize these effects, we need to keep our sleep schedule intact as much as possible.
So today I’m going over some daylight savings time sleep tips to keep your sleep schedule intact.
Why We Have Daylight Savings Time?
This may seem obvious to most of you, but I actually have a small international audience. And not every country observes these time changes.
Daylight savings time was created to artificially increase the amount of daylight we get during the late spring, summer, and early autumn. This was important when most people were farmers. Having more daylight hours to work the farm and harvest crops was incredibly important. Even though we are no longer an agrarian society, we still observe this tradition.
So sometime around March, we move our clocks forward one hour to begin daylight savings time. And around November, we move our clocks backward one hour to end daylight savings time and return to the “normal” time.
How Daylight Savings Time Ending Affects Us
This is only a one hour time difference. Daylight savings time ending is the equivalent of traveling west one time zone. For example, traveling from New York to Chicago.
But if you’ve ever traveled west one time zone, you know the minimal difference in time can really affect you. In this case we’re experiencing jet lag, though likely a mild case of it.
I would argue, though, that daylight savings time (beginning or ending) affects us more than traveling by just one time zone.
When most people travel, there is usually a purpose. This could be for business, leisure, visiting family, or a number of other reasons. But when we travel we often have set activities scheduled. Even when on vacation we have set activities, even if the activity is just sitting by the beach all day. Regardless of the activities, the point is it is different from our normal routine.
But when daylight savings time begins or ends, we are forced to deal with a time change while maintaining our regular schedule. And this, I believe, is much harder to do. Unlike traveling which interrupts our regular routine, this time change makes us adjust to a new internal schedule while keeping our regular schedule.
For example, feeling hungry at 11am instead of noon, or feeling tired at 2pm rather than 3pm, can greatly impact your day and your productivity. The time it says on the clock and our biological clock are temporarily fighting for control, and this leaves us vulnerable.
So let’s go over some simple tips for managing this time change. Just remember, this article is about daylight savings time ending, and daylight savings time ending (moving the clocks backward) is easier than daylight savings time beginning.
1. Keep Your Sleep Schedule
Arguably the most important thing to do, we have to maintain our regular sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time we always do.
So if you normally go to bed at 10pm, still go to bed at 10pm. When daylight savings time ends, our body thinks 9pm is really 10pm. And this is where most people make a mistake.
When they feel tired at 9pm they decide to go to bed. But this only makes the time change more difficult to adapt to. Luckily, as we’ve said, moving the clocks backward is easier. So force yourself to stay up the “extra” hour and go to bed at your regular time.
Likewise, try to get up at your normal time. This is the harder part of moving the clocks backward. If you normally wake up at 7am, you might naturally wake up at 6am instead. While this is hard to control, just know that within about two weeks your body will have adjusted and you should be waking up at your normal time.
2. Keep Your Eating Schedule
We’ve discussed many times before how our sleeping and eating schedules are closely connected. And just like we need to keep our regular sleep schedule, we need to keep our regular eating schedule.
When we move the clocks backward we feel hungry sooner than we’re used to. And this can be a huge distraction. Often people will eat earlier in the day, which then leads to extra snacking right before bed. And snacking before bed can affect our sleep quality.
In the first few days after the time change it is especially important to eat a well balanced diet. Aside from the benefits of eating healthy, this will also leave us feeling satiated longer throughout the day and before we sleep.
But what should you do if you feel hungry an hour before you’re supposed to eat? Try eating some healthy snacks earlier in the day that have a slightly higher fat and protein content, such as nuts. Or if you have the willpower to push through the temporary hunger, then that works too.
3. Avoid Extra Caffeine
Waking up earlier than intended is one of the worst parts about moving the clocks backward. And this can lead many people to consume extra caffeine to get through the day. But, unsurprisingly, this is a bad idea.
Consuming extra caffeine increases your chance of affecting the next night’s sleep. It may keep you up at night or prevent you from achieving quality sleep. And this can get you stuck in the coffee cycle, where you constantly need coffee to stay awake, and it’s the coffee that is keeping you from sleeping.
I will mention one caffeine benefit, though, and that is it’s an appetite suppressant. Again, do not consume any extra caffeine. But having a cup of coffee in the morning could keep you from feeling hungry for longer. And this could help keep you on your regular eating schedule.
But I’ll say this one more time…don’t consume extra caffeine!
4. Expose Yourself To Light
Since we often wake up earlier than we intend to when moving the clocks backward, getting exposure to light first thing in the morning is very important.
When we wake up we need to see light. This signals to our brain that it’s daytime and we should be awake. One of the downsides of these time changes is the subtle upset to our circadian rhythm.
Luckily, moving the clocks backward means it’s initially light out early in the morning, around 6:30am. And this can help you wake up in the morning, especially if you wake up an hour earlier than you should have.
But throughout the morning and early afternoon, be sure to expose yourself to sunlight as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be sunlight, but natural light does work best.
And don’t forget to begin limiting your exposure to light the closer it gets to your bedtime, just as you should always do.
Right after the time changes, one of the hardest things is staying awake in the late morning and early afternoon. Especially if you woke up an hour earlier than you wanted to, this is when the fatigue really hits you.
Instead of reaching for caffeine, try doing some light exercise. The best option is to simply take a walk outside. This not only gives you exercise and gets your blood flowing, but you are also invigorated by the natural light and fresh air.
And doing some more vigorous exercise early in the morning before work or school could help too. This is a good idea any time, but when the time changes you may need that extra boost of energy.
Just be careful to not exercise too late in the day. Exercising too close to bedtime can prevent you from falling asleep. But a leisurely walk shouldn’t prevent you from sleeping, even if it is an evening stroll.
These are some very simple tips for keeping your sleep schedule intact when daylight savings time ends. You’ve probably noticed that these are standard sleep tips. And that’s by design.
We don’t want to do anything unusual with our sleep schedule. All we want is to maintain it as much as possible. Even though our sleep cycle is temporarily disturbed by the time change, it is only temporary. In fact, within two weeks your body will have fully adjusted.
But being extra diligent about these sleep tips will make the time change transition easier and faster for you.
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