Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the yearly practice of setting clocks forward one hour between the months of March and November. The idea behind DST is to conserve – or “save” – natural light, since spring, summer, and early fall days typically get dark later in the evening compared to late fall and winter days. The non-DST period between November and March is known as Standard Time.
Humans and other mammals are guided by circadian rhythms, which are 24-hour cycles that regulate sleep and other key bodily functions such as appetite and mood. These rhythms are largely dependent on light exposure. In order to reset each day, they must be synchronized with natural light-darkness cycles in order to ensure healthy, high-quality sleep. As with so many things in life, the better prepared you are the better the outcome. And when it comes to getting a restful night of sleep, the steps you take during the day, can go a long way in ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to roll. Try incorporating the following daytime habits into your daily routine for your best sleep ever.
- Cut the Caffeine: It can take up to six hours for the stimulating effects of caffeine to works its way out of your system. Keep your caffeinated beverages for the morning and eliminate drinking anything with caffeine 6 to 8 hours before bed.
- Get Into the Sunlight: Several sleep studies have shown that exposure to light in the morning helps reset your circadian rhythm for the next 24 hours, telling you to feel awake in the morning and also to feel sleepy when it’s time to hit the pillow later on.
- Nix Daytime Naps: If you have trouble sleeping at night, the idea of a nap sounds all-too inviting. Sleep experts warn avoiding falling into the nap trap as doing so can interfere with getting adequate shut-eye at night. If you find it impossible to keep your eyes open, opt for a 30 minute nap, max, and don’t nap at all after 4pm.
- Take the Time to Unwind: If only falling asleep was as simple as getting into bed, turning off the lights and closing your eyes. Experts agree that it typically takes the average person 30 to 60 minutes to relax and unwind before being able to fall asleep. If you jump into bed immediately after answering emails, writing your to-do list or making lunches for the kids, you may find it hard to fall asleep because your mind is still racing. Take some time before bed to take a warm bath, meditate, enjoy light reading or any activity that’s soothing.
- Put Your Electronic Devices to Bed: Just as your kids have a curfew, your electronic devices need a curfew. Why? The blue light emitted by TV, phone and tablet screens interferes with your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm and tricks your mind into thinking it’s time to stay awake. Spending time playing games, surfing the internet or answering emails also keeps your brain stimulated and awake. Power down all electronics at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Establish a Consistent Sleep Routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day – including the weekends – is a healthy sleep hygiene practice that can also prepare you for time changes. Make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep each night before and after transitioning to or from DST.
- Gradually Alter Your Bedtime: Two to three days before the transition between Standard Time and DST in early March, sleep experts recommend waking up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual. Then, on the Saturday before the time change, set your alarm clock back by an additional 15-20 minutes. Adjusting your wake-up time can help the body make a smoother transition when the time change occurs.
- Spend Time Outdoors: Since natural light is a driving force behind our circadian rhythms, exposure to sunlight can alleviate feelings of tiredness during the day that often accompany time changes. Spending time outside during the day also suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for bed.