Rolling the clock ahead one hour in the spring and back one hour in the fall does not only affect your schedule, it can inevitably throw off your body’s internal clock, too, and lead up to a week or more to adjust. That hour you have lost from sleep can leave you feeling cranked up and grouchy.
For some people, spring-forward time change is no big deal. But for a lot of people, it means daytime sleepiness, sluggishness, and exhaustion; and these can alter the morning routine. Gladly, they can all be avoided by having a few slight, manageable modifications to your routine in the week leading up to the time change.
Adapting to the change in time is a different experience for all. Some people adapt in just a few days while for others, it could take more time. Until then, falling asleep and waking up later can be more challenging. And, losing an hour in spring can induce even more issues.
Regardless, you will need to adjust to the time change. And these straightforward science-backed recommendations will make transitioning to your new sleep schedule more effortless – so the time change does not alter your morning routine as such.
- Make a Gradual Transition
If you sense a bit of pressure waking up an hour earlier and it appears like too much, take advantage of the few days left until spring-forward to ease yourself into it. It is recommended that you start going to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier than your usual bedtime about a week or a few days before spring-forward kicks in.
Better still, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier each morning. This implies you will already be ahead by Sunday on “spring-forward” waking time – so getting up early Monday should be eazie breezie. This helps your body slowly adjust and it needs that bit of extra time to make up for the lost hour.
Hitting the sack a little earlier each night, even 15 minutes earlier for three days, can make a difference. Plan towards 7 hours of sleep on the pre and post-transition days, at the least.
- Take a Cool Shower in the Morning (Not Cold)
A temperature change can be effective when trying to introduce a level of alertness, and for this, cold works well. And while a cool shower may not sound like the ideal first thing in the morning, it can be the waking call that you need. The cool water enhances your circulation, which also increases your alertness— both of which are valuable for morning wake-ups!
Take your morning shower as normal, you want to make it mildly uncomfortable, but not unbearable. Try to contrast the shower by starting with cool water, switching to your normal shower temperature, and finishing with cool water. There are reports to back up that finishing on a shower cold enough to make you shiver slightly triggers the body’s immune system.
- Start Your Day with Sunlight
You can use the effect that natural sunlight has on your brain to get your body clock as closely in tune with the sun clock as possible. Light supports your body’s circadian rhythm to work effectively, which makes it easier to adjust to the time change. So trying to get early morning light, say 15 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning, is key.
Open your curtains as soon as your alarm goes off. Exposure to sunlight will naturally suppress a hormone called melatonin, which would otherwise keep you feeling drowsy. With melatonin out of the clear, you will find yourself brightening up way more comfortably than if the curtains were kept shut.
If you live in a warmer climate, you can get your sunlight outside. And if it’s a grey day outside? Turn on all the lights. Very bright artificial light has a similar melatonin-suppressing effect to real sunlight, so it’ll help you wake up. But even sitting next to the window while you drink your morning coffee will do the trick.
- Avoid Long Naps
Skipping the mid-day nap is key when adjusting to the time change, as long daytime naps could make it harder to get a full night’s sleep.
Napping midday can be tempting, especially when your body feels heavy. While some people may say you should avoid naps completely, there is one thing that is unanimously agreed on: Avoid long naps during the day. Try to aim for 10-to-20-minute naps if you have to take them, and don’t nap after 3 pm. Or, step into the sun to stimulate your body and help retrain your inner clock.
- Stay Away from Caffeine late
To ensure to get a decent night’s rest and can wind down at bedtime, cut out caffeine four to six hours before your sleep time. You should also stay away from that beverage in the evenings. The trick is then to avoid it late at night if you wish to get quality sleep.
- Put Your Phone to Bed Early
It’s hard to put your phone away at night and risk missing something important. But giving yourself a small break from screen time will help you adjust to a new sleep schedule. It is always helpful to avoid wake-promoting blue light from cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices too close to the bed.
That emitted blue light naturally stimulates your brain and suppresses delta brainwaves – special brain waves that would normally help you fall asleep – and activate alpha brainwaves. It keeps you feeling more alert, leading to more tossing and turning, and lower quality sleep. This will make you feel even more tired in the morning.
Ideally, you should set your phone aside for at least an hour before sleeping. But we are aware of how unrealistic that is, so even putting your phone down 10 minutes before bed is better than nothing.
To help regulate your body clock, try getting some exercise during the day. Even moderate exercise like walking can improve your sleep and get you waking up in bright moods. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, but try not to get your heart pumping by avoiding heavy workouts within four hours of bedtime or too close to bedtime. Raising your body’s core temperature can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Take Time for Breakfast
Eating breakfast early in the morning helps rehydrate you – especially if you make it a point to drink water or tea with your meal. That helps fend off dehydration, a common cause of fatigue that is a trigger for poor morning routine follow-through.
Having to get up even earlier doesn’t help, but carving out 10 minutes for a simple breakfast like toast or fruit, can help you fuel up for the day, so your early-morning fatigue doesn’t last until lunch. You’ll get an almost-instant boost of energy.
Keep to your normal schedule to prevent time-change sleepiness. Try to manage your schedule accordingly and work the hour change into your schedule. The closer you stick to your normal routine, the faster your body will adjust to the time change. It’s important to be consistent with eating, bed, and exercise times in general—but it’s especially important during the transition to spring-forward.
Keep things as close to normal as possible. If you usually wake at 8 a.m., do it the morning of the time change, if you can.