Warmer temperatures, longer days, and the scramble to file your taxes point to one thing: spring is around the corner, and with it, the start of Daylight Saving Time. That means on Sunday, March 13 (at 2 a.m.), it's time to turn your clocks ahead one hour to “spring forward.”
But it pays to be prepared. “Compared to the fall time change, most people actually have a harder time adjusting when we ‘spring forward,’ because we’re losing an hour of sleep,” explains sleep specialist and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, PhD.
Thankfully, though, there a few easy tweaks you can make to your routine to make the segue to DST smooth and easy.
Step back before you spring forward
More than one third of Americans are chronically sleep deprived, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “If you’re in this set, it probably won’t be difficult for you to fall asleep at the new time,” Breus says, “but be sure to set your clock ahead before going to sleep on Saturday, March 12.” That way, seeing the lost hour up front will motivate you to go to bed earlier, rather than bumming you out the next morning when you wake up.
If you’re not sleep deprived, you can keep yourself on track by drawing back your bedtime gradually this week. “On the Wednesday before the time change, go to bed 15 minutes earlier,” Breus suggests. “On Thursday, go to bed another 15 minutes earlier, and another 15 the next two nights. That means that by Saturday, you’ll be going to bed an hour early and will have an easier adjustment the next morning.”
Got kids? They need extra help sticking to good sleep habits since they’re less attuned to the hands on the clock and more to their internal timekeepers. “If they get to stay up until 11pm on Friday night, make it 10pm,” says Breus. “Since they’re losing the hour the next day, they need to go to bed earlier so that on Sunday night, they’ll be set up for a good night’s sleep before school on Monday.”
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Take stock of sleep habits
This year’s time change coincides with the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week, so it’s a great occasion to give your sleep habits a quick reboot.
That means turning off electronic devices at least and hour before bedtime (the blue light can interfere with slumber), avoiding eating and drinking (particularly caffeine and alcohol) just before bed, and recommitting to a consistent bedtime ritual (which may include a warm bath, gentle stretching or yoga, or jotting down reminders and worries on a pad of paper so you don’t carry them with you into dreamland).
Refresh your workout schedule
“If exercise relaxes you, the extra hour of evening light we get in March gives you more opportunity to get outside to exercise,” Breus says. “Just remember to keep a three-hour window between your sweat session and bedtime so you have plenty of time to wind down.” On the other hand, if your workouts jazz you up, “you should keep doing them in the morning, time change or not, because you don’t want that energy boost to lead to insomnia,” Breus says.
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Stay safe on the roads
This is one day out of the year when Breus advises seeking some flexibility on your morning commute, particularly if you drive. “Ask your boss if you can come in to work a little late the Monday after the time change, or ask if you can work from home.” Research has shown the Monday after the spring time change to be particularly dangerous for drivers relative to other Mondays through the year. “It’s not a bad idea to avoid rush hour on Monday morning when roads will be filled with sleep-deprived people running late for work or school,” Breus says.
Just remember: even though it takes a little work up front to get down with Daylight Saving Time, the payoff—longer spring and summer nights—is always worth it.