There are many urban legends about why we have daylight savings. Some say it helps conserve energy, benefits farmers and retailers, and, in modern times, makes trick-or-treating safer.
Whatever the reason, daylight savings can be irritating and disruptive. Either we lose an hour in the spring in exchange for late afternoons that aren’t pitch black or we gain an hour in the fall and it looks like midnight seemingly an hour after we just had lunch.
But rather than dwelling too much on the frustrations of time change, we’re deciding to be proactive about using it to our advantage. Here are a few things you can do to make the transition easier.
1. Don’t abuse an extra hour. The most natural response to getting an extra hour of time, especially on a weekend, is to stay up or sleep in later. But it’s a trap! Keeping your normal regimen is the key to getting through a time change so resist the urge to watch that extra episode, knit something elaborate, or stay out extra late .
Meanwhile, if it’s spring and you’re setting the clock ahead, gradually try to get to bed a little bit earlier than normal in the days before the time change and the lost hour won’t feel so tragic.
2. Try to limit coffee and alcohol. While, for some, coffee is the lifeblood of our mornings, it is still a stimulant that interferes with sleep cycles, much in the way that alcohol can affect your ability to get good rest.
Now, we’re not telling you to quit coffee (we could never!), but in the lead-up to daylight savings, be mindful of your consumption. Reducing your intake of coffee and alcohol will help the shift in time occur a little more naturally.
Keep yourself from sleepwalking
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3. Open (or close) your blinds. Benjamin Franklin, who is largely credited with the Daylight Savings Movement, once suggested that church bells should be rung and cannons should be fired to help everyone acclimate to time changes.
We think it’s fair to say that of the many great ideas that Ben Franklin had, this was not one of the best. Instead, we humbly suggest opening your blinds when you first wake up. Access to natural light is diminished as the winter comes and so, the more time you soak up the sun, the more awake you’ll feel and the happier you’ll be.
As for spring, while access to light is less of a problem in the spring, it does mean that you’ll see more light later into the day, which can also interfere with sleep. So when we lose an hour, try to limit your exposure to bright light earlier in the evening than usual.
4. Listen to your body. This is the most obvious and most overlooked tip. Do you ever feel tired and think that it’s too early to go to bed? Hit the hay anyway.
Do you ever reach your bedtime and don’t feel tired? While not feeling tired when it’s time for bed can be frustrating, it’s part of the adjustment and you shouldn’t panic or stress. If you find you can better make use of an hour that you’d spend tossing and turning, we suggest reading or finding an activity that relaxes you (and doesn’t involve electronics).
The most important thing, according to sleep studies, is that you try to wake up at the same time every day. If that means you find yourself tuckered out by the early afternoon, try to take a short nap.
5. Think about the routine you want. Most sleep science experts encourage you to keep your normal regimen after a time change, whether it’s daylight savings or travel to a different time zone.
But there is also something to be said for thinking about how you can maximize a time change to fit your goals. If you’ve wanted to wake up earlier, having an earlier sunrise is a great impetus. If you’ve wanted to take more walks, start running after work, or enjoy more time outside, having a later sunset is another opportunity.
Either way, ease into whatever you do slowly and let time work for you better than ever before.