Dealing With Time Change

Twice a year comes a time that I dread most: time change. Whether the clock moves forward or backward by an hour, I notice the effects almost immediately. My mood changes and I become irritable, impatient, and of course, sleepy.

As the winter season approaches, I struggle to stay awake once the sun goes down. With the clock moving backward, the sky is dark when it’s still fairly early in the evening.

Time change effects

People with sleep disorders aren’t the only ones who suffer from the effects of moving the clock by an hour. According to the Sleep Foundation,

Researchers have also noted negative effects that occur during the transition from Daylight Standard Time to Standard Time in November. In addition to sleep loss, people are at greater risk of mood disturbance, suicide, and being involved in traffic accidents during both bi-annual transition periods.1

If it were up to me, we would get rid of this time change altogether. Sadly, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Below are some things I try to do to help prepare my body for the time change.

Focus on sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to maintaining habits that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. This can include making sure your bedroom is clean of clutter and disruptions, following a relaxing bedtime routine, and keeping healthy habits during the daytime.

One of the things I do to help myself relax for sleep is turning off both the TV and my phone. I notice that when I watch TV late at night, it tends to take longer for me to fall asleep. Instead, I replaced all screen time with journaling. Doodling and writing about my thoughts settles me down, and it doesn’t involve bright lights that wake me up.

Follow a sleep routine

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (including the weekends) is a healthy practice that can also prepare you for time changes. Our bodies have a circadian rhythm – 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes. Changing your sleep or wake-up time can negatively affect your body’s ability to adjust to a stable circadian rhythm.1

Personally, I don’t need to use an alarm clock once I am strict about my sleep schedule. I tend to wake up naturally around the same time every day. Being a teacher means I wake up fairly early during the school year. Once summer starts, if I don’t follow the sleep routine that I do during the academic year, I tend to feel out of whack.

Gradually shift bedtime

Several days leading up to the time change, start waking up 15 to 20 minutes earlier or later than usual. Adjusting your wake-up schedule can help the body make a smoother transition when the time change occurs. This also means shifting your bedtime routine to accommodate for the time shift.1

Since I take daily and nightly medications, I make sure to adjust those according to the shift in time. For the fall season, if I start taking my medications a little bit later than usual, my body has an easier time with the transition.

Planning for changes is one of the most important things we sleepyheads can do to assist in the transition in our circadian rhythm. It’s actually one of the most important things non-sleepyheads can do, too.

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