Why It’s So Difficult to “Spring Forward” — And What You Can Do About It

Like many of my fellow Americans, I hate the switch to daylight savings time. The day we “spring forward” is difficult for many of us, since it results in losing an hour of sleep. But it’s not just about losing an hour of sleep. Daylight savings time also messes with your circadian rhythm.

Spring forward

Light and Your Circadian Rhythm

First of all, each of us has a circadian rhythm. This is your internal clock. Among the cues that help your internal clock set itself is light. The presence of light outside — the time the sun rises and sun sets — helps your body understand when to sleep. One of the reasons that it’s hard to spring forward is because now, suddenly, the clock is telling us it’s time to get up, but the light outside isn’t in sync with that. The problem is that

The problem is that your body doesn’t read a clock. You go to bed and get up according to the clock, but your body doesn’t understand the time on a clock. Instead, it takes cues from the level of light outside. Daylight savings time requires that your body make adjustments. Your body has to get used a new circadian rhythm, and it can feel hard on your body.

So what can you do to recover from the move to spring forward?

Spring Forward: Getting Over the Daylight Savings Time Lag

The good news is that you can battle daylight savings time, and it isn’t likely to impact you long-term, although you probably won’t feel great the morning after. Daylight savings time is similar to experiencing jet lag. Some of the ways you can battle daylight savings time include:

  • Go to bed a little earlier: One of the things I do is set my clocks ahead a few hours before I go to bed so that I get into the mindset that it’s time to go to bed. I go to bed earlier, and that helps a little bit.
  • Manage your light: You can also manage your light a little bit to help your circadian rhythm. Use an eye mask to help you keep out the light.
  • Practice good sleep habits in general: Another way to avoid letting the yearly spring forward tradition drag you down is to practice good sleep habits in general. Go to bed at the same time, avoid alcohol and caffeine a few hours ahead of bedtime, and have a calming routine that can help you get used to going to bed.

Those who get good sleep on a regular basis are more likely to get through daylight savings time with fewer problems. The rule of thumb is that it takes about a day of recovery per hour of time lost. However, if you have poor sleep habits already, it might take a little longer to recover from daylight savings time. Since everyone is different, the act of springing forward will affect each person in a different way. Your best option is try to get to “normal” as quickly as possible, and do your best to get through the first day of springing forward.

2 Responses to Why It’s So Difficult to “Spring Forward” — And What You Can Do About It

  1. I actually love daylight savings time. I love springing ahead because it means more daylight after I get home from work. I’m not a morning person, so I get more daylight overall when we’re on daylight savings time.

    Instead of getting rid of it, I wish we stayed on daylight savings time all year. As cool as it is to get an extra hour of sleep, as soon as it hits I can’t walk the dogs in daylight after work anymore.

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