Spring Forward to a Better Night’s Sleep

Tips to remedy sleep disruptions during Daylight Savings Time
Friday, March 7, 2014 - 9:48am
Occupational Therapy, RPCI

We are approaching that bittersweet time of year when we gain an hour of sunlight but lose an hour of sleep. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, most Americans will set their clocks ahead one hour as daylight saving time returns.

Losing sleep – even an hour – isn’t easy for an already sleep deprived nation. Day-to-day stress, anxiety, medications and busy schedules regularly impact night-time routines. But proper shut-eye is essential to overall health and quality of life. Lack of sleep can interfere with thinking, memory and judgment, and increase risk of illness.

While it can take up to a week to adjust to the jet lag-like feeling that comes with turning the clocks forward, there are a few tricks to beat the spring-ahead transition.

Plan ahead: Start going to bed fifteen minutes early a day or two before the time changes. This modification makes adjusting to the hour loss of sleep easier than adjusting all at once.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule: To ensure healthy sleep patterns, maintain a strict sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This allows your body to regulate itself.

Get to know your sleeping habits: The right amount of sleep for each person varies. One way to find your ideal number of sleep hours is to choose a weekend when you can sleep without an alarm and see when you naturally wake up.

Exercise: It is important to stay active during the day without becoming overly fatigued. You may fall asleep quicker and sleep better because you had a more active day.

Take a break: Short naps (no longer than one hour) can help. But if you have trouble falling asleep at night, re-evaluate whether that nap is beneficial to you.

Relax: Listening to relaxing music or a meditation CD, reading a book, taking a warm bath, or drinking warm milk may help you fall asleep. Whatever helps you relax at night is a good activity to do before bed.

Unplug from technology: Give your mind a chance to unwind before trying to fall asleep. This includes TV.

Make better food choices: Limit your intake of caffeine and other stimulants especially later in the day. Limit fluids after 7 p.m. and refrain from eating large meals near bedtime.