“The hour we gain when DST ends has a similar effect on our bodies as the jet lag you’d experience flying from Houston to Colorado, which is one hour earlier,” says Dr. Kristyna M. Hartse, director of the Sleep Center at Spring Branch Medical Center in Houston. While a one-hour time change seems far from dramatic, don’t discount the sleeplessness that may occur when we “fall back” to standard time this month, although it is more difficult overall to adjust your sleep schedule in the Spring when DST begins.
“For people with sleep problems, even a one-hour time change can be trouble,” says Hartse, whose patients see her for a myriad of sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and snoring. Some of them see her because they’re dreading the end of DST.
“People who have trouble sleeping get sensitive to time changes in advance, because they know they’ll have an even harder time going to sleep,” she says.
While the upcoming time change doesn’t pose a major sleep threat for most, the hour gain can temporarily leave even solid snoozers wide-eyed at bedtime. According to Hartse, if your normal bedtime is 10:00 p.m., that’s when your body is programmed for sleep. Once your clocks are set back to standard time, your body will be ready for sleep at 9:00 p.m.
“Until your body clock adjusts, it may be more difficult to fall asleep at the desired clock time and be more difficult to get up in the morning because it’s now earlier than in DST,” says Hartse. The most important thing, she stresses, is to get on a regular schedule so your sleep rhythms will be in sync with the clock. To do this, Hartse offers the following tips:
— Be aware that the time change may cause some disruption of your schedule.
“If you know you’re sensitive to time changes, try going to bed
later and waking up later by the same amount in anticipation of
the time change,” says Hartse. For sensitive sleepers, about a
week beforehand, start going to bed 10 minutes later than usual.
The next night, go to bed 20 minutes later. Keep adding another
ten minutes each night, so that when daylight savings ends, your
body‘s clock is in sync with the new external clock time.
— Don’t take naps during the day.
When you take naps, you start shifting your body‘s sleep rhythm
by sending the message that daytime is sleep time. “When it’s
time to go to bed, you want to be able to sleep,” Hartse explains.
“If you fill up your sleep quota too early, it’s like a glass
half-filled with water … there’s not much room left to fill up