Health and Wellness: Start now to prepare your body for DST
“Springing forward” sounds so cheerful. If we didn’t know any better, the phrase might conjure up images of bouncing slinkies, happy children on trampolines and energetic kangaroos. But since we do know better, we know that “springing forward” is basically a euphemism for a rough couple of days when we turn the clocks forward one hour to begin daylight saving time.
If the March time change is an annual struggle for you, don’t delay getting ready for it. You have a couple of weeks, so start now to prepare yourself for a smooth and easy transition to the time change. Start with a good sleep baseline, shift your routines gradually and make sure you get some morning sun. Then when the weekend of March 13 arrives, switch all your clocks on Saturday night and plan a busy Saturday and a relaxed Sunday and Monday. By following these tips, you’ll feel much more energetic and ready to take on the day.
Start with a good sleep baseline
To help make the transition easier, ensure you’re sleeping well now. You may not be sleeping well if you see a few of these signs, according to helpguide.org:
- Feel tired during the day
- Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed
- Need to sleep late on the weekends
- Experience mood changes, including feeling more stressed or depressed
- Struggle to remember things or focus
If this sounds like you, don’t let it worry you. There are some simple habits you can implement to help you sleep better. These habits are known as “sleep hygiene,” and they’ll help you have a healthier night’s sleep. Here are some basic sleep hygiene tips from the CDC:
- Have a consistent bedtime routine and bedtime (even on the weekends!).
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and comfortable.
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
- Be active during the day.
Shift your routines gradually
When you hear the term “circadian rhythm,” you may think of sleep cycles, but think a little more. What other behaviors or processes in our lives are governed by that 24-hour cycle?
“Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle,” according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things.”
These “physical, mental, and behavioral changes” include hormone releases, eating habits and digestion, body temperature and, of course, sleep. While we can’t control our hormone releases and body temperature, we can control when we wake up and eat. So in the week leading up to that Spring Forward, set your alarm clock 10 minutes earlier each day, and have your meals follow the same pattern. When finally the time changes, your body will hardly notice a difference, and it won’t throw you off so much!
Take a few morning walks
In the lead-up to the time change, and on the big day itself, head outside for some morning sunlight. It will really help!
“By seeing daylight in the morning, your body slows down melatonin production (the sleep-inducing hormone) to wake you up and increases output at night when the sun goes down,” according to Rachael Gilpin at Sleep Advisor. “Seeing the morning sunshine at the same time each day helps regulate our clock, and when it’s time for bed, we’ll be more ready to fall asleep and stay at rest.”
Switch all your clocks the night before
It can be a little disconcerting when you wake up on the morning of daylight saving time. Your phone says one time, your oven says another and the pale sunlight barely streaming through the window makes it so tempting to hop back in bed.
To avoid that disconcerting feeling, set your non-internet-connected clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed on Saturday night. You’ll have an easier time adjusting when you wake up.
Plan a busy Saturday and a relaxed Sunday and Monday
Do an intense workout, run some errands you’ve been putting off or go do something fun (or all three!) on Saturday, March 12. Wear yourself out so you can fall into bed a little earlier than usual and sleep soundly all night.
Then, on Sunday and Monday, when you may have to wake up way earlier than you would like, keep your plans and obligations to a minimum. You may even want to block out half an hour in the afternoon to take a power nap.
With daylight saving time approaching, start preparing now. Start with a good sleep baseline, shift your routines gradually and make sure you get some morning sun. Switch all your clocks on the night of Saturday, March 12, and plan a busy Saturday and a relaxed Sunday and Monday. Following these steps will help you ease into the time change and make it a smooth transition.
Sarah Hilton, RN, has 20 years of healthcare experience and serves as Stage Marketing’s director of advisory services.