Updated: Jun 1, 2022
It’s happening like, well, clockwork. March 13, 2022 is time to move our clocks ahead one hour, once again.
If you dread Daylight Savings Time (DST), you’re not alone. The struggle is real, folks! We’re all about to have a mild case of jet lag. And if you’re already having a hard time sleeping, the adjustment can be even harder. A simple change of one hour while we’re (hopefully) sleeping at 2:00 a.m. might not seem like it should be a big deal, but even research shows the Monday morning following DST results, not only an increase in fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating at work, but also in:
Car accidents, including fatalities
Trips to hospital emergency departments
Feelings of depression – and even suicide
All this is to say, we need to respect the importance of our body’s circadian rhythm. That’s our 24-hour biological clock. It regulates all manner of biological processes, especially sleep and wakefulness. It’s so important for health. And it’s something you probably have more control over than you think. Having a strong biological clock can go a long way to getting consistently better quality of sleep. And vice versa: having a weakened, disrupted circadian rhythm is one of the biggest causes of poor sleep. If you’re struggling with chronic insomnia, CBT-I (aka Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia) is the gold standard in treatment to help you get your sleep back on track. Among other things, it teaches you how sleep regulation systems, such as the circadian rhythm, work when they’re working properly – and how they can become disrupted, fuelling insomnia. More importantly, it teaches you how to strengthen your sleep regulation systems. Knowledge is power when it comes to good quality sleep.
Tips for adjusting to DST. If you’re concerned about the upcoming time change, here are some helpful strategies:
Instead of changing your sleep schedule all at once, gradually shift it by 15 min per day, starting a week before.
Instead of trying to go to sleep earlier, when you might not yet be sleepy enough, it’s easier to start by setting your morning alarm clock 15 minutes earlier. That way, you’re more likely to be tired enough to fall asleep 15 minutes earlier the next night. (Did you know that going to bed too early often triggers insomnia?)
Get extra exercise – and morning light. A morning run or walk in the bright outdoor light (yes, even outdoors on a rainy day is brighter than indoor light!) at the same time every morning can have a wonderfully powerful impact on the circadian rhythm. And ... it can also help build up your sleep drive to make it more likely you’ll sleep well the next night.
If Daylight Savings Time triggers a bit of insomnia, don’t try to compensate by sleeping in, napping, or going to bed even earlier. While helpful in the short-term, these strategies will only make it worse in the long run.
Don’t feel like starting a week early? Just bite the bullet and do it all at once on March 13.
But keep in mind, it’s usually helpful to go to bed earlier when you’re already a bit sleep deprived. So, try not to stress too much if you’re tired on the Monday after. (But please never drive if you’re feeling sleepy! You don’t want to become one of those statistics). There are lobbying efforts underway working to eliminate the bi-annual time change. In the meantime, DST is a fact of life for many of us. If you push through the day and stick to your new morning schedule, your circadian rhythm is likely to adjust in a day or two. And your sleep will thank you.
Share the love – and the sleep.
Know someone struggling with insomnia? Please feel free to share this post.
Looking for more help to get your sleep back on track? Send me a message to join the waitlist for one-on-one CBT-I. Or get started right away by signing up for my online self-paced course on Effective Natural Strategies for Chronic Insomnia.
If you're not receiving my newsletter, send me a message to subscribe and I’ll send you my free gift, Why Relaxation Strategies for Insomnia can Backfire - and what to do instead.