With spring quickly approaching, we’re seeing more glorious amounts of sunlight every day. We’re starting to dream of days at the beach, running outside after months of toiling on the treadmill, and backyard grilling.
But spring also means that, thanks to daylight saving time, we lose a precious hour of sleep. Doesn’t sound like much, but losing just one hour of sleep has a significant impact on other areas of our lives. DST is associated with an increase in traffic accidents and other negative events such as higher rates of workplace injuries, a 5 percent increase in heart attacks, and decreased productivity at work. Ouch.
Experts at Harvard University explain that lack of adequate sleep can lead not only to tiredness during the day but also to decreased cognitive functioning and an increased risk for preventable accidents. Before you excuse a week of low productivity because of the time change, try some of these easy ways to minimize the effects and reset your sleep cycle with ease.
01. Put It in Perspective
I’m the first to admit that I treat any loss of sleep as a big deal. As a therapist, I work with my clients to promote self-care. This includes getting adequate and quality sleep each night. I try to practice what I preach.
TIME writer Alexandra Sifferlin makes a great point when she writes that we typically lose more than an hour of sleep flying from the West Coast to the East Coast. Her point hit home. When I lose sleep due to travel, I don’t typically bemoan it because I’m focusing on having fun while on vacation. But losing an hour Sunday night somehow seems more dire. As DST approaches, putting these sixty minutes in perspective is really helpful for me.
02. Gradually Prepare for It
Getting up an hour earlier will be hard the first few days because you’ll be adjusting to a new routine. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic recommend preparing for the time change a few days early to minimize the effects of lost sleep.
Go to bed fifteen to thirty minutes earlier for two to three days leading up to the time change so that an “earlier” bedtime and wakeup time won’t be so jarring. You could apply the same strategy to waking up in the morning: Get up fifteen minutes earlier Friday morning and so on. Yes, it will be hard to go to bed earlier, especially on the weekend. But think of the payoff come Monday.
03. Stick to a Routine
When it comes to sleep, your body thrives on routine. Dr. Raghu Reddy, a pulmonologist who specializes in sleep disorders, emphasizes that sticking to the same bedtime routine every day is important when it comes to making up for lost sleep. He recommends going to bed and waking up at the same time every day; engaging in the same bedtime activity such as reading, journaling, or listening to music; and avoiding screen time before bed.
Focusing on your exercise routine can be particularly helpful when you are trying to fight drowsiness as you adjust to the time change. Anthony Komaroff, M.D., executive editor of Harvard Health Letter, recommends regular exercise around the same time every day to help your circadian rhythm (which affects your sleep cycle) adjust to the time change. Exercise is also shown to increase your alertness. The Mayo Clinic cites improved mood and increased energy as just two of the many benefits of regular exercise.
If you find yourself feeling more and more groggy throughout the day, take a few deep, focused breaths. Deep breathing has been found to not only decrease the physiological symptoms of stress but also increase alertness. There are several different types of breathing techniques, but the easiest one is called square breathing: Breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, hold for five, breathe out slowly through your mouth for five, and then hold for five before taking another breath. A few rounds will energize you and boost oxygen flow to your brain.
06. Sunbathe (Sort Of)
Exposure to sunlight has been shown to increase levels of alertness. Schedule fifteen minutes outside of your office or house to soak up some sun. Even better, combine your sunlight exposure with exercise, and go for a walk or run when you are feeling that mid-afternoon slump. If it’s gray out, light therapy might be an option to boost alertness.
07. Nap Within Reason
If the week after DST is really doing a number on you, some medical professionals such as Dr. Reddy recommend taking a very short nap (no longer than twenty minutes) to give yourself an opportunity to rest. Anthony Komaroff, M.D., also recommends one or two short naps during the week after daylight saving time because it can take about a week to adjust to the time change for some people. Set an alarm to ensure you don’t oversleep.
Alternatively, you can use the “coffee nap” method: Drink a cup of coffee, and then nap for fifteen to twenty minutes. When you wake up, the caffeine effects will kick in (it takes about twenty minutes to feel the effects of that latte). I have friends who swore by this method in college, and I’ve used it myself when I’m short on time.
Incorporate these easy strategies whenever you’re feeling sleep-deprived, and while everyone else around you might be walking around in a daze, you’ll be unfazed. Everyone will wonder at your secrets to staying alert and well-rested come Monday morning.
Photo Credit: Belathee Photography