Waking up in a panic has kind of become a mainstay for me, but waking up late in a panic? That could only mean the arrival of Daylight Savings Time. Your most chipper friends will talk about how lovely it is to spring forward. For the rest of us with already-wonky sleep schedules, losing a whole hour makes for some serious Daylight Savings Time sleep problems. Why does this happen, and dear God, when will it end?
“Any time you change the body’s circadian clock even by something seemingly as small as an hour, it really throws off all the hormones and cellular clocks in your body,” says sleep expert Shelby Harris, PsyD, author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia. “Our biological clocks are so well set that even an hour’s difference in light exposure can create changes in the body, making for greater sleepiness in the morning and insomnia at bedtime at the Daylight Savings change. We see major spikes in car accidents and hear attacks in the first few days after the time change, and it can often take upwards of five to seven days to adjust fully to the new time, light, and clocks.”
Okay, by next Monday I’ll be able to get out of bed without Daylight Savings Time sleep problems. Chill. But is there any way to expedite this process?
“In the coming few weeks, get as much daylight as you can—especially given that so many of us are stuck indoors nowadays due to the current news cycle,” says Dr. Harris. “Take a walk during the day, even spending your lunch break outdoors for 20 minutes can boost your mood and energy levels. Exercising with 20-30 minutes of aerobics is helpful as well, especially four to six hours before bedtime. Limit exercise within 3 hours of bedtime.” Hopefully allowing yourself to breathe and embrace the light will ease the time adjustment. Hell, maybe a quick walk outside can put a smile on your face after a nightmare morning.
And if that doesn’t cut it, be smart and don’t retire your SAD lamps just yet. “Finally, with the newfound darkness in the morning, many people find a dawn simulator alarm clock to be useful right now until the sun finds its way to earlier hours,” says Dr. Harris.
This way, you’ll always be able to wake up on the bright side… even if it still comes with a bit of early morning chaos.
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