Adjusting to an hour of lost sleep

There’s no more denying it: spring is on its way. And while most of us are psyched about kicking winter to the curb, there’s that hour of lost sleep last night that we still need to survive. You’re not alone if you’re already dreading the sleep hangover about to take over your life.

Coping with Daylight Saving TimeWhy does Daylight Saving Time (DST) have to be so bittersweet?

Just like traveling across time zones disrupts sleep, the start DST can make us restless for a few nights as we adjust to going to bed and waking up earlier. A study in Neuroscience Letters found that during the time change transition after “springing forward,” our quality of sleep decreases and we actually sleep an average of one hour less per night. Even the end of DST in the fall (though we get our hour back) can disturb our sleep and create a myriad of health issues. Did you know, car crashes increase on the Monday following a time change and during the following week, heart attacks increase?

Cheer up. Springing ahead doesn’t have to lead to falling apart. If you’re healthy and have good sleep habits, it shouldn’t take more than a day or two to adjust to the time change. If you’re an overachiever when it comes to sleep – and we hope you are – we’ve got some coping strategies for you.

Tips for coping with the spring time change

Exercise – Get your heart pumping a little harder and serotonin (the stress hormone) is naturally released. If you can exercise outside earlier in the day, even better. Think of sleep as fuel and exercise as the engine. Getting more exercise will lead to better sleep, which will give you more energy for exercise. Pretty healthy circular argument, right?

Nap this afternoon – We’re big believers in the power of the almighty nap. During the time change transition, nap earlier in the day and keep your nap to 20 minutes. Long enough to revive you but not so long it interferes with your nighttime sleep.

Set an alarm for bedtime – Even if you’re not tired, go to bed at your normal time (adjusted for the time change) and read quietly until you get sleepy. Your sleep habits will fall back into step within a couple of nights.

Coping with Daylight Saving TimeCurb alcohol consumption – Sleep and alcohol are always a risky combination. If you’d like to indulge, do it at least 2 hours before bedtime.

Say no to sleep medication – It might be tempting to pop a sleeping pill to help you sleep better for a few nights, but don’t do it. Getting the dosage right can be confusing and you don’t want to add to your sleep hangover because of a miscalculation.

Lighten up – Light is a powerful tool when it comes to regulating sleep patterns. Bright light earlier in the day and subdued lighting in the evening will help your circadian rhythm right itself quickly.

Watch out for sleepy drivers – While you’re practicing your sleep better strategies, the guy beside you may be asleep at the wheel. Take your time, keeping your eye out for the sleepy drivers as well as the panicked ones who forgot to change their alarm clock.

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This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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