Time changes: Ten tips to help you survive

Reading Sleep Tips

In the spring, we look forward to lighter evenings as we move to Daylight Savings Time.  However, as with most things, there is a tradeoff here.  ‘Losing’ an hour causes us (and our children) to have difficulty rising in the morning.  For instance, we need to wake at 7, but it feels like 6 a.m. to our body. In addition, we may have difficulty settling in for the evening, as our body feels like it is earlier than the clock is telling us.

The opposite is true in the fall, we trade an extra hour of sleep for increasingly dark nights and brighter mornings. Each year, we look forward to that welcome extra hour of sleep. But for parents of young children (or those with pets), it is a mixed bag – as their biological clocks may lead them to wake you up even earlier than usual. 

Here’s how to help them (and you) adjust to the time change, with one simple tip for before the time change, as well as some ways to adjust after the time change.

A few days ahead:

  1. Move bedtimes back in increments few nights before to prepare them for the change
    • A week could be even better, moving the time back 15 minutes every two days
    • Also, move other activities such as meals and daytime naps back by the same increment
  2. For some people, just jumping into the time change and adjusting afterward works!

Adjusting after the time change:

  1. Get plenty of natural light, particularly in the morning, to reset your Circadian rhythm. This will help your body adjust to rising ‘earlier.’
  2. Exercise outside if you can; early in the day is best
  3. Ideally, get up with the sunrise – or consider using a dawn simulator or lightbox in the morning to get light.
  4. Avoid screens before bed. If you must use one, use a blue light filter or light blocking glasses
  5. Eat breakfast within an hour after waking up
  6. If there is too much light in the bedroom, an eye mask can help
  7. Choose a relaxing or calming activity before bed.  This is a great way to practice self-care with activities such as:
    • Shower or bath
    • Journaling
    • Stretching
    • Meditating
    • Reading a print book (although nothing too disturbing or suspenseful!)
  8. Long term, getting a mattress, pillow, and sheets of natural fiber is helpful; the breathability enhances sleep

The CDC website recently published a useful blog post that provides more detail on how our body adjusts to this change in Circadian rhythm.  

 While it can be challenging to switch to a new rhythm, we all look forward to the reward of more light in the evening in the spring (and more light in the morning, come fall). We hope these tips will help you to make the adjustment more smoothly.  Sleep healthy!

First published October 29, 2020

Revised March 2022