3 Easy Ways To Prepare For The Shift Into Daylight Savings Time

Don't let 'spring forward Sunday' catch you off guard. Here's how to prepare for the upcoming clock change.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | March 18, 2024

As the Northern Hemisphere bids farewell to winter, we welcome the arrival of spring. For some, the burgeoning symbolism of spring brings feelings of hope and renewal, while for others, it heralds a transitional period that may be met with apprehension. Among the upcoming changes lies Sunday, the 10th of March: the day the clocks spring forward.

As the cold and dark evenings slowly dissipate, a majority of Northern Americans will adjust their clocks forward this Sunday, marking the shift to daylight saving time. With the sun poised to rise earlier and set later, the transition promises longer, brighter days ahead. Yet, while daylight saving time is arguably necessary for energy conservation, economics and public safety, many contend that its benefits are overshadowed by inconveniences.

Beyond the minor nuisance of adjusting clocks, research reveals consistent, tangible negative health outcomes associated with the implementation of daylight savings and the hour of time lost:

  1. Sleep disturbances. The shift in time can disrupt the body's internal clock, leading to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep.
  2. Mood changes. Some individuals may experience mood disturbances—including increased irritability or symptoms of depression—as a result of disrupted sleep patterns.
  3. Increased risk of accidents. The change in sleep patterns has been linked to an increase in accidents, including traffic accidents and workplace injuries, due to decreased alertness and impaired cognitive function.
  4. Cardiovascular issues. Some studies have found a temporary increase in the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events following the transition into daylight saving time.

Despite our reservations, and whether we like it or not, the clocks will inevitably change this Sunday. While the potential negative effects are cause for concern, there are proactive steps we can take to prepare for this transition and make the most of it.

1. Adjust And Optimize Your Sleep Routine And Environment

By gradually shifting your sleep schedule, you can dull the shock of losing an hour of sleep overnight. Research shows that consistent sleep routines reinforce the body's circadian rhythm, which can mitigate the time change's effects on your body.

To make this transition easier for yourself, consider adjusting your bedtime before the time change, as well as after. Aim to shift by 15-30 minutes each night until reaching your desired daylight saving time schedule. Consistency is key, so be sure to maintain a regular sleep routine throughout the week to come, including the weekend, to reinforce your body's internal clock.

Whether it's your skin care routine after a warm bath, a book and a cup of tea, or even just slipping into cozy pajamas and brushing your teeth, adhering to your regular bedtime routine can signal to your body that it's time to wind down. Research shows that maintaining these rituals can promote relaxation, making it easier to drift off to sleep.

Furthermore, studies show that creating an optimal sleep environment is crucial for good sleep; this is especially important during the coming transition. In doing so, you can promote restful, rejuvenating sleep—even amidst the daylight's disruption.

Take a moment to evaluate your bedroom environment and make any necessary adjustments to enhance comfort and relaxation. If the sun is already making a nuisance of itself in your area, investing in blackout curtains can help create a serene sleep environment. For those sensitive to noise disturbances, consider using white noise or earplugs to block out unwanted sounds. Lastly, ensure your mattress and pillows provide the level of comfort and support you need for a restful night's sleep.

2. Make The Most Of The Morning Light

Exposure to natural light in the mornings is incredibly beneficial for synchronizing your body clock and improving well-being, as research shows that morning light has a natural antidepressant effect. Spring's arrival allows us to reap this benefit amidst the burden of the clock change.

Make it a priority to spend some time outdoors in the morning, soaking in the natural light and fresh air. Even a short walk or simply having your breakfast on the patio can make a difference in how you feel throughout the day. If outdoor time is limited, consider using light therapy devices—which mimic natural sunlight and promote wakefulness—to simulate your own, personal sunrise.

Embracing the dawn of a new day can help you greet each morning with a sense of vitality and zeal, setting a positive tone for the day ahead. With the upcoming loss of sleep and time, this dose of positivity could make a world of difference to your mood and energy.

3. Practice Self-Compassion When Approaching Your Routines

Lastly, maintaining your daily routine is crucial during the implementation of daylight savings, as it can provide you a sense of stability and continuity amidst the disturbances it brings. It becomes especially important given the empirical benefits of daily routine in promoting healthy sleep.

Prioritize consistency in your daily habits and rituals, and plan ahead to make necessary adjustments. Whether it's waking up at the same time each morning, following a regular exercise routine, or sticking to set meal times—maintaining these routines can anchor you during this transition. Consider setting reminders or alarms to help you stay on track with your daily activities. If you're notorious for clicking "snooze," it might be wise to enlist friends or family as accountability partners to ensure you're on track.

Most importantly, remember to be gentle with yourself if you find it challenging to maintain your daily rituals. It's more than okay to be flexible and make adjustments as needed to accommodate your changing needs and circumstances. Approaching the time change with a growth mindset and a willingness to adapt can help you navigate the transition with greater ease. Embrace the familiar rhythms of daily life, knowing that your routines can provide a sense of comfort and stability in uncertain times.

Do you think that the shift to Daylight Savings Time affects you more than others? Take the Highly Sensitive Person Questionnaire to understand yourself better.

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