Daylight-saving time ends Sunday, and the bonus hour when the clock turns back can bring more than extra sleep. For those still chasing the goal of becoming a morning person, the annual change can be a good time for a reset.
The transition from daylight-saving time can help us recommit to better habits around sleeping and wellness, says Beth Malow, professor of neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “You can use it to your advantage,” says Dr. Malow.
Here’s how to win the transition.
Go to Bed Early(ish)
Most of us are tempted to stay up late, even when the clock reads 10 p.m. and our bodies feel like it is 11 p.m. Use the extra hour to get to sleep at your usual time no matter what the clock says—so if you head to bed at 10:30, plan to retire at 9:30 after daylight-saving. Doing so will give you more rest and a chance to wake up naturally, says Dr. Malow. Stick to the strategy on both weekdays and weekends. “Take advantage of this time to go to bed earlier and not stay up super late,” she says.
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For young children, try the opposite approach. The abrupt change in time can result in 5 a.m. wakeups for the entire household, adds Craig Canapari, director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.
Pushing your child’s bedtime 30 minutes later starting three nights before the time change—that is, this Thursday—allows early-rising young children to adjust to waking up later. “You can shift their sleep schedule a little more gently,” Dr. Canapari says.
Use the early wakeups to go for a walk or get some exercise before starting the workday. For many people, the naturally earlier wake-up can be the ideal time to fit in exercise and recommit to a routine.
Once you’re up and about, give priority to daylight. Getting outdoors as the sun comes up also naturally regulates the body’s internal clock, which can feel off when the time changes. “The natural sunlight can be really helpful in terms of waking us up, and it even helps us go to sleep easier at night,” says Dr. Malow, who specializes in sleep medicine. If you can’t go for a walk or leave the house, open your shades each morning when you wake up.
Turn In, Tone Down
As the days get shorter, embrace the darker evenings to let your body settle down, resisting the urge to sip coffee at 4 p.m. or turning on extra lights to stay alert. Eating dinner earlier, around 6 p.m., can make bedtime calmer, too, says Dr. Malow.
With less daylight and chillier nights, screen time can be especially disruptive to sleep. When used in the evening, the light from screens can interfere with natural melatonin production and make it harder to go to sleep on time, says Dr. Canapari. Some experts recommend changing device settings to dark mode once the sun goes down.
“We’re trying to get someone’s body clock aligned with desired schedules,” he says.
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Appeared in the November 2, 2021, print edition as ‘How to Win With The Time Change.’