Daylight Saving Time! How to Survive the Loss of an Hour of Sleep.

There’s a very helpful Daylight Saving Time mnemonic: “spring forward, fall back.”

This Sunday, we “spring forward” and turn our clocks ahead one hour — which means losing an hour of sleep. And for many of us, each hour of sleep is precious.

So what can you do to offset that loss? My book Better Than Before has lots of ideas about forming habits — including habits related to sleep.

1. Use the Strategy of First Steps.

There’s a magic to starting, to taking that first step. Often, it helps to have some kind of external prompt, or a cultural milestone, to remind us to take a first step. Like a New Year’s resolution, a cue like Daylight Saving Time makes a good time to start a new sleep habit.  You could start new better sleep habits at any time, of course, but Daylight Saving Time is a good prompt. For instance…

2. Give yourself a bedtime.

Many adults don’t have an official bedtime; they just go to bed when they feel “tired.” But it’s so easy to keep ourselves jacked up on sugar, caffeine, office email, or binge-watching TV, so we don’t feel tired, even though we belong in bed. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep. Do the math and give yourself an official bedtime. That way, you know, “Well, it’s 11:00 p.m., I’m up thirty minutes past my bedtime.” It helps.

3. Consider setting an alarm to mark your bedtime.

You probably set an alarm to help you to wake up; so set an alarm to help you go to bed. Often, we just need a reminder that “Oh, yeah, it’s about time for me to turn off the light.” You might even want to set a true “snooze” alarm, a fifteen-minute alarm that reminds you that it’s almost bedtime. We often give children warnings that bedtime is approaching, but grown-ups also need transitions.

4. Consider getting ready for bed well before your bedtime.

This really helps me. I realized that often, I was so tired that I couldn’t face changing my clothes, brushing my teeth, washing my face, etc., so I just kept staying up. Not exactly a rational response. Now I try to get ready for bed well before I intend to get in bed. Huge bonus:  brushing my teeth really helps me to quit night-snacking. I’d heard this advice before, but it seemed too easy to be effective. To my astonishment, it works really well.

5. Sleep really matters.

Sleep affects mood, memory, immune function, self-control — lack of sleep even contributes to weight gain. In fact, sleep is so important that in Better Than Before, sleep is part of the Strategy of Foundation, along with exercise, eat and drink right, and unclutter. Good sleep is at the foundation of good habits.

How about you? Have you found some strategies to cope with the loss of that hour of sleep — and to help yourself get more sleep, generally?

  • Sandra

    All good tips! I only need 6 hours sleep, but will occasionally sleep 7. I too like to have my shower and get into my PJs ahead of time! I go to bed whenever I feel tired, even if I’m reading a good book or watching TV. I have no fixed time. The feeling of tiredness decides! It’s anytime between 9 and 11.30 pm! The body always knows! It takes me a few days to get used to the daylight saving time, that’s OK. I can’t believe how early in the year you are putting your clocks forward!

    • Mairsydoats

      You’re very lucky that YOUR body knows things that are reasonable. My body, on the other hand, is an unruly teenager (no matter my real age), who would truly prefer to sleep 4am to noon every day. Without any other sleep controls, I consistently get sleepy at 3:30, and sleep until noon. Not really practical in my work life, though.

  • Cruella

    Go to bed one hour earlier the evening before? I never bother about anything, it evens out in a day or two at most anyway.

  • Holly Koppel

    Try doing this with a teething baby! We had a plan to start backing bedtime earlier by 5 minutes each day the week before the time change and we were really doing good sticking to it and adjusting until Saturday night when our baby’s teeth decided to make a push and we were up all night. 🙁

  • kicking_k

    I used to set an alarm, but I’m a rebel, so I didn’t actually go to bed when it went off. And my husband (an obliger who would already be in bed) sometimes got woken up by it.