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.
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.