By Dr. Anuj Chandra, Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders
(October 26, 2020) — It is almost time to “fall back” — setting the clock back one hour at the end of Daylight Savings Time. This year, the time changes at 2 a.m. during the early morning hours of Sunday, November 1.
Most people think the fall time change is great. Who wouldn’t want an extra hour of sleep? It’s true that the springtime change when we lose an hour causes more serious disruption to sleep. But the fall change is not all good. Any disruption to sleeping patterns can throw off your internal body clock, leading to poor quality sleep, lower energy, and daytime drowsiness. A few years ago, a Better Sleep Council survey found that 40 percent of U.S. adults said it takes them a week or more for their sleep patterns to get back to normal.
Here are some tips for getting through the end of Daylight Savings Time with as little disruption as possible to your sleep.
1. Ease into the Time Change
Start preparing yourself the week before the time change. Go to bed 15 minutes later a few days before the time change. Gradually increase to 30 minutes later, then an hour later. By getting your body used to the later time, you will be more likely to experience less disruption when the time actually changes.
2. Change Your Clock When You Get Up, Not When You Go To Bed
It may sound counter-intuitive… If you change your clock before you go to bed it feels like you are getting an extra hour. That’s a good thing, right? Not so fast. Changing the hours you sleep can still cause disruption, even if it seems like you’re adding to your sleep time. Try keeping the old clock time when you go to bed, then adjust the clock AFTER you get up. That way, you will wake up after getting the amount of sleep your body is used to, and you’ll just have an extra hour of wake time before starting your day. Then that night, you’ll be a little bit more tired, so you’ll sleep better with your new, fully adjusted time.
3. See the Light.
Getting outside into the sunlight will help your internal clock adjust faster to the new time. Exposure to light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps make you sleepy at night, and resets your sleep-wake cycle. You actually need sunlight to keep your sleep-wake cycle on track, and reduced sunlight in fall and winter can lead to sleep problems and depression for many people. Morning is the best time to do that anyway since the days are shorter, so start making it a habit after the time change.
4. Do Not Nap.
In the days leading up to the time change and during the week that follows, resist the temptation to take long daytime naps to compensate for the time shift. Catching a few extra Z’s during the day seems like the obvious solution, but it might do your sleep more harm than good. Taking a nap could take the edge off your sleepiness, making you go to bed later even though you still have the same wake time and causing you to get too little sleep.
5. Give Yourself a Media Curfew.
You should always turn off all electronic devices at least one hour before you go to bed — phone, tablet, computer, television, game console… everything. That’s especially important for the time change. The blue-spectrum light that comes from screens reduces your body’s production of melatonin at night when you need it to help you fall asleep. Be sure to switch your electronics to “night mode” after dinner. That makes the light coming from them yellow instead of blue.
Anuj Chandra, M.D., D.ABSM, founded the Advanced Center for Sleep Medicine in 2005, an independent sleep medicine clinic equipped with the latest sleep testing equipment and with locations in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since 2005, Dr. Chandra has served on the international teaching faculty of the National Sleep Medicine Course, a physician education initiative to bring cutting edge to sleep medicine training to India. For more on Dr. Chandra and the Advanced Center for Sleep Medicine, visit www.sleepforhealth.org.