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  • Your Stress-relief Guide to Daylight-Saving Time

    Sleep Deprived

    As if this winter hasn’t been brutal enough, in 2 days time we have to set our clocks ahead for daylight-saving time. I swear we just set them back, didn’t we? On the upside, it’ll stay light longer in the evening. On the downside, we all lose an hour of sleep and many people will go back to not only waking before the sun rises, but also driving to work in the dark. More coffee anyone?

    Depending on the source, they say it takes anywhere from 1 day to 1 week to feel back to normal after “springing forward.” Why so much discrepancy? Well, it seems that a combination of genetic factors determines your chronotype (whether you’re a night owl or a morning person), and your chronotype determines how well you adjust to the time change.

    I’m a bona fide night owl. Left to my own devices it takes me close to a week to adjust to the spring time change, but the morning people I know adjust much more quickly. Of course, there are varying degrees of morning people; some consider 4am a perfectly acceptable time to be getting up whereas others prefer something a little more “reasonable.” (No offense to you 4am’ers but I am a night owl, remember.) There are also varying degrees of night owls. For instance, if I had my druthers I’d go to bed around 1 or 2am; other night owls might prefer either an earlier or later bedtime.

    No matter which you are, however, the fact remains that our body clock runs on a cycle that slightly exceeds 24 hours. That means that losing an hour of sleep in the spring is especially hard on us, especially if you don’t get enough sleep to start with.

    So with that in mind, here are a few things you can do to help mitigate the stress of springing forward:

    1. For night owls: Start adjusting your bedtime before the time change gets here. Go to bed 15 minutes early on Wednesday, 30 minutes early Thursday, 45 minutes early Friday night, and an hour early Saturday. That puts you right on schedule when the alarm goes off Sunday morning. (Sorry, I know, I’m a couple days late… I meant to post this a week early but DST really snuck up on me this year.)
    2. If you’re a morning person: Do the reverse of the night owls; starting Wednesday, set your alarm to go off 15 minutes earlier each morning than it did the day before. By Sunday, you’re on schedule. (Well, mostly anyway; depending how much of a morning person you are)
    3. Reduce your caffeine intake earlier than usual in the days running up to the time change so it’s easier to fall asleep. You know, this will help you sleep better the rest of the year, too. Just saying.
    4. In the days before you turn the clock ahead, try drinking a relaxing or sleep-inducing herbal tea before bedtime to make it easier to get to sleep. The most common ones are chamomile, lavender, lavender chamomile (my personal favorite), and several multi-herb sleepy time teas. Psst… if you have any amount of stress, this is a good idea all year round.
    5. Keep lighting and activity levels low for at least an hour before bed. This is good sleep prep anytime of year, but is especially helpful at Daylight Saving Time.
    6. On Saturday, get some vigorous exercise. If it’s sunny and warm enough, get outside for your exercise. Exercise helps advance the body clock. So does sunlight.
    7. On Sunday, get up at your normal time. Sleeping in on the morning the time change goes into effect will only serve to make the adjustment harder.

    I’ve been doing these things for a couple years and they really do cut down on the stress and sleep deprivation associated with Daylight Savings Time. Do you do anything special to make the time change less stressful? If so, please share in the comments below.