How Sleep Experts Say You Should Prepare for Daylight Saving Time and Help Your Body Adjust

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Daylight saving time kinda sucks, IMHO (at least, in the moment). Sure, gaining more daylight in the evening is cool and all, but the practice of setting clocks forward an hour each March (aka "springing forward") requires us to essentially re-learn how to prepare for daylight saving time and the loss of an hour of sleep every year.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way: Sleep experts tend to agree that forcing ourselves to wake up and go to sleep an hour earlier than we’re used to goes against our body’s natural tendencies. In fact, sleep researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine want to abolish daylight saving time entirely (in favor of permanent standard time), noting that the practice of setting clocks forward is misaligned with human biology. (The Sunshine Protection Act was also introduced in 2022 to do the opposite and make daylight saving time permanent, leaving us with less morning light and more evening light year-round—but at least we wouldn't have to change the time twice a year.)

Experts In This Article

“It's a change in clock time, but we can't necessarily change our body clock’s time that rapidly,” explains sleep expert Michael Gradisar, PhD, head of sleep science at sleep-tracking app Sleep Cycle.

“It's a change in clock time, but we can't necessarily change our body clock’s time that rapidly.” —Michael Gradisar, PhD, head of sleep science at Sleep Cycle

While individual reports of health disturbances brought on by sleep changes around daylight saving time are difficult to draw conclusions from, “at the population level, you see increases in heart [attacks]1, increase in stroke2, increase in suicides, increase in car accidents3, [and] reduced productivity4,” says Lauren Hale, PhD, vice chair of the board for the National Sleep Foundation. “You see all of these effects in the few days after the transition to daylight saving."

I hold out hope that maybe, one day, we’ll be able to kiss daylight saving time buh-bye. But until that time comes, it’s worth learning some ways you can prepare for daylight saving time and preserve your shuteye.

When is daylight saving time in 2024?

Daylight saving time starts on the second Sunday in March—this year, it falls on March 10, 2024. On that day, at 2:00 a.m. local time, we "spring forward" or set clocks forward by one hour (unless you're in Hawaii or Arizona, which do not observe daylight saving time). Daylight saving time then ends on the first Sunday in November, which falls on November 3, 2024. On this day, we return to standard time, setting clocks back and gaining an hour.

The reason for daylight saving time is to allow us more daylight hours in the evening during the warmer months, and to preserve daylight hours in the morning during the colder months.

If the return to standard time sounds like the better of the two, it kind of is. The "fall back" period “is generally easier, as we are allotted an extra hour [to sleep] as the clocks move back to standard time,” explains sleep medicine physician Abhinav Singh, MD, author of Sleep to Heal and medical review expert at Sleep Foundation. Because the sun is highest at midday during standard time, it’s also more aligned with the body's internal clock, he adds.

Why am I so tired after daylight saving time begins?

The start of daylight saving time basically requires you to wake up an hour earlier than you’re used to, which can cause you to feel sluggish. "The body functions optimally when it has a regular bedtime and consistent wake-up time, across the entire week from Sunday to Sunday," says Dr. Hale.

According to clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, “the switch to daylight saving time can commonly disrupt sleep patterns,” making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep and causing us to feel less rested during the day as a result.

Just think about the lousy feeling of jet lag after you've traveled across time zones, or even social jet lag (when you push your wake-up times later on the weekend, only to feel terrible on Monday morning): Even an hour time change can mess with your circadian rhythm5 and mistime the release of hormones like cortisol and melatonin, leading you to feel sleepier or more wakeful or alert at inopportune times throughout the day and night.

How long does it take to adjust to daylight saving time?

It can take about five to seven days for your body to adjust to daylight saving time after setting the clocks forward, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Daylight Saving Time Health Advisory.

According to Dr. Gradisar, however, the people who are most affected by the time changes in both the spring and the fall are the night owls and the early birds. This time of year, the night owls could especially struggle with their sleep, he says. These folks typically feel less alert in the mornings, so when you factor in the loss of an hour of sleep with setting clocks forward, they could really struggle to wake up on time and feel rested, says Dr. Gradisar. If you're a night owl, his advice is to try to go to bed at least a bit earlier than usual in the days before and after the time change.

How to prepare for daylight saving time: 5 science-backed tips to help you adjust

1. Go to bed earlier

Dr. Harris suggests going to bed a bit earlier each night, in increments of 15 to 30 minutes, for about five days before the time change (but if you don't have that much time, just start shifting your bedtime up on any nights before daylight saving time begins). This way, you're helping your body adapt to the impending time change before it arrives, so that you don't wind up losing as much sleep (and feeling so tired) when it hits.

If you struggle to fall asleep at an earlier bedtime, Dr. Gradisar recommends trying a guided body scan meditation to help you unwind. In a 2018 study he conducted along with other sleep science researchers, this kind of breath-based meditation was effective in decreasing sleep-onset latency6 (aka the time it takes a person to fall asleep once they're in bed) in adolescents who were struggling with drifting off.

2. Surround yourself with light first thing in the morning

Because we spring forward during daylight saving time, we effectively "lose" an hour of precious morning daylight. Even if you haven't been going outside to see the sunrise anyway, the decrease in light coming through your windows as you're getting up can lead you to feel groggier than usual—which is why the experts suggest actively seeking it out.

“Light is one of the most potent triggers [with the ability to] change the timing of our circadian rhythm7,” says Dr. Gradisar, so missing out on morning light can throw a serious wrench in our sleep patterns.

Your best bet is to open up your blinds as soon as you get up in the morning, allowing the sun to help reinforce your body’s natural clock. If you tend to get up before the sun does (or anticipate that you will, once daylight saving time hits), Dr. Gradisar recommends supplementing that lack of natural morning light by flipping on an artificial light made for supporting your circadian rhythm immediately upon waking.

3. Cut back your screen time and keep the house dark before bed

We know, we know: Setting your phone aside for the case of your sleep is easier said than done. Still, sleep experts cannot stress enough how important it is to limit your screen time before bedtime, particularly around the time when we're setting clocks forward or back.

The blue light emitted from screens has been shown to reduce both the amount of sleep you get and the quality of that sleep8, particularly when you're taking it in at night, as it can suppress the release of melatonin (or the hormone that leads you to feel sleepy). And that's the last thing you need when you're about to lose an hour of sleep.

Dr. Hale adds that it's a good idea to limit all forms of light exposure close to bedtime in order to help your mind and body know that it’s time to shut down for the day. (Meaning, dim the lights in your home if you can, or turn off the harsher overhead ones in favor of lamps.) This way, you'll be able to fall asleep more easily once you hit the hay, which will help minimize how tired you feel once you have to "spring forward."

4. Limit your caffeine, alcohol, and food intake before bed

If you're still digesting dinner while you're trying to fall asleep, your body may be too active with the processes of digestion to allow you to doze off. In turn, Dr. Hale recommends trying to finish your last meal of the day more than an hour before your bedtime rolls around.

Dr. Harris also suggests limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake in the days before daylight saving time hits, and especially reducing your intake of both in the afternoon and evening, given caffeine can keep you awake and alcohol can disrupt your sleep quality. Science says the sweet spot for stopping caffeine intake before bed is roughly nine hours9 (to give it a chance to fully exit your system)—so if you go to bed at 11 p.m., you'd want to stop drinking coffee by 2 p.m.—and for alcohol, it's best to give yourself a four- to six-hour window before your bedtime.

5. Get active

As if you needed another reason to move your body, research shows that regular physical activity can improve sleep duration and quality10 (which is just what you need ahead of losing an hour of sleep). The therapeutic benefits of exercise are profound: Working out is associated with emotional resilience to stress11, lending a hand to those who may deal with stress-induced insomnia, and the boost of feel-good endorphins from working out improves mood12, which may help you battle the early-morning grumpies caused by the time change.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Manfredini, Roberto et al. “Daylight Saving Time and Acute Myocardial Infarction: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 8,3 404. 23 Mar. 2019, doi:10.3390/jcm8030404
  2. Sipilä, Jussi O T et al. “Changes in ischemic stroke occurrence following daylight saving time transitions.” Sleep medicine vol. 27-28 (2016): 20-24. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2016.10.009
  3. Klerman, Elizabeth B et al. “Daylight saving time and mortality-proceed with caution.” Nature communications vol. 15,1 1576. 21 Feb. 2024, doi:10.1038/s41467-024-45837-4
  4. Wagner, David T et al. “Lost sleep and cyberloafing: Evidence from the laboratory and a daylight saving time quasi-experiment.” The Journal of applied psychology vol. 97,5 (2012): 1068-76. doi:10.1037/a0027557
  5. Manfredini, Roberto et al. “Daylight saving time, circadian rhythms, and cardiovascular health.” Internal and emergency medicine vol. 13,5 (2018): 641-646. doi:10.1007/s11739-018-1900-4
  6. Bartel, Kate et al. “Brief school-based interventions to assist adolescents’ sleep-onset latency: Comparing mindfulness and constructive worry versus controls.” Journal of sleep research vol. 27,3 (2018): e12668. doi:10.1111/jsr.12668
  7. Blume, Christine et al. “Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood.” Somnologie : Schlafforschung und Schlafmedizin = Somnology : sleep research and sleep medicine vol. 23,3 (2019): 147-156. doi:10.1007/s11818-019-00215-x
  8. Silvani, Marcia Ines et al. “The influence of blue light on sleep, performance and wellbeing in young adults: A systematic review.” Frontiers in physiology vol. 13 943108. 16 Aug. 2022, doi:10.3389/fphys.2022.943108
  9. Gardiner, Carissa et al. “The effect of caffeine on subsequent sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Sleep medicine reviews vol. 69 (2023): 101764. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2023.101764
  10. Alnawwar, Majd A et al. “The Effect of Physical Activity on Sleep Quality and Sleep Disorder: A Systematic Review.” Cureus vol. 15,8 e43595. 16 Aug. 2023, doi:10.7759/cureus.43595
  11. Childs, Emma, and Harriet de Wit. “Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults.” Frontiers in physiology vol. 5 161. 1 May. 2014, doi:10.3389/fphys.2014.00161
  12. Basso, Julia C, and Wendy A Suzuki. “The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review.” Brain plasticity (Amsterdam, Netherlands) vol. 2,2 127-152. 28 Mar. 2017, doi:10.3233/BPL-160040

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