Do thoughts of Daylight Saving Time (DST) already have you yawning? Learn 5 tips for a smooth adjustment this spring or autumn.
Springing Ahead & Falling Back
I was always taught that spring is the time for “springing ahead”, and autumn (or fall), is the time for “falling back” with our clocks. While these are helpful mnemonics, I find it interesting to consider the language.
What is implied by “springing ahead”? It sounds like you eager and willing to move forward even faster than you already are! But spring is often a wet, heavy, sluggish time. You might be weary from a long, cold winter. While you may believe you “should just be able to” power through like nothing’s different, your mind-body system often isn’t on board with that. And I know that many people can be hard on themselves when they come up against that fact.
What’s implied by “falling back”? I’m reminded of a 12-year-old me, when my BFF and I tested trust by falling back into each others’ arms. This “falling back” very clearly illustrates the idea of surrendering. Regardless of the time of year, surrender is a concept I find that more people need to apply to their sleep.
Unfortunately people often have the opposite reaction to their sleep, and especially the Daylight Saving Time adjustment.
When you try to power through, or resist/fight a change like DST, it can be a major stressor on your mind-body system. This is partly because it up-ends the rhythms you’ve (hopefully) previously established. Such stress is part of the reason why the number of heart attacks and strokes can increase during this transitional time.
How can we transition with more grace? Apart from the usual advice, here are a few, more novel tips.
1. Don’t wait for Daylight Saving Time to arrive.
Don’t wait until the night before to make the full, one-hour adjustment. Instead, ease into the change in 15-minute increments, over the course of several weeks, if possible. (If not, even a few days could be helpful.)
2. Take special care of yourself for at least 3 days (& up to a week) following the time change.
Expect that your body may not be as energetic, your mind may not be as alert. Build a few more rest breaks into your day, and defer important decisions until the following week if possible. Carefully consider the pros & cons of napping.
3. Don’t worry so much about it.
Worry, stress, and anxiety are stealers of healthy sleep. Since seasonal time changes happen two times a year, they can feel like a big event. But if you’ve ever traveled, you may remember what it’s like to visit places in other time zones (sometimes with bigger gaps than an hour!). Look at DST as you would a bout of jet lag, no more, no less. Trust that you’ll recover.
4. Understand that working against nature is harder.
It’s easy to wonder “what’s wrong with me?” when your mind-body system doesn’t have the energy you’d like it to. Barring any medical reasons for it, the transition into winter is naturally a time of hunkering down more, doing less. Historically, less light meant less activity. Take the crisp falling leaves as your example–find something energy-draining to release, and better align yourself with nature.
5. Establish a wake & sleep rhythm that’s time-independent.
If you have the flexibility, establish a pattern whereby you rise with the sun, regardless of clock-time. Such a rise time usually means also likely transitioning to sleep earlier than you might be accustomed to. This is a longer-term suggestion, but one that might save you from the yearly ups-and-downs these clock changes bring.