Getting to grips with spring-time clock changes

Springing forward is harder than falling back. These tips can help with sleep patterns during the upcoming time change

Banking up on sleep ahead of the time change when clocks spring forward an hour is a smart way to avoid the frantic feelings and lingering fatigue associated with daylight saving time — but only if you do it the right way.

“It’s really important to go into the time change without being significantly sleep deprived,” said Dr Kelly Brown, a specialist at the Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center in the United States.

Brown recommends taking a nap of not more than an hour on the day before retuning to work and also going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night during the days leading up to the time change.

“It’s really a good idea to not sleep in excessively over the weekend because it will make getting up on Monday even more difficult,” Brown said. “Taking a brief nap on the Sunday of the time change can be helpful to offset the sleep loss. A one-hour nap would be helpful, but not more than an hour. More than an hour could affect your night-time sleep.”

A Sunday afternoon nap should offset the average of 40 minutes of lost sleep most people experience on the night before reporting back to work, she said.

She also recommends taking in some bright sunshine after rising from bed on the weekend of the time change because light helps to regulate the body’s internal clock. If the weather is dreary, and won’t allow for this, then specialist products are available, which will also be helpful at other times of year, for example if you find your sleep patterns drifting and becoming irregular, or if you experience bouts of the winter blues, after the clock go back again mid-Autumn.

Not just an inconvenience

The spring time clock change is more than an inconvenience, Brown said, noting that studies have linked it to increased incidences of stroke, heart attacks, workplace injuries and traffic accidents.

“It is going to be darker than usual driving into work Monday morning,” she said. “There can be increased accidents, including accidents involving pedestrians because it is darker and people don’t always account for that.”

Most people need a few days to a week to adjust fully to the time change. For others, especially night owls, the disruptive effects tend to be much longer lasting, she said. If fatigue and difficult sleep patterns persist for more than two weeks after the time change, this may indicate the presence of a sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep disorders are remarkably common, but are frequently under-diagnosed — meaning people are left unaware of the fact that convenient and effective treatments are available.

Mindful of this tendency for sleeping problems to be missed, Brown said that “If you are a person who has a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep, or if you often feel tired in the daytime, you should speak to your primary care physician (GP)…”

Tips to help ease your adjustment to the daylight saving clock changes this spring:

  • Don’t excessively oversleep on the weekend of the time change. Consider a Sunday nap of no more than one hour.
  • Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night, beginning on the Wednesday before the March time change would be ideal.
  • Dim house light earlier leading up to the time change and avoid bright lights in the evening, especially from smart phones, computers and TV screens.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark.
  • Get morning exercise in sunlight on the weekend of the time change if possible otherwise try to use a specialist device.
  • Eat an early breakfast and dinner on the weekend before, and eat a good breakfast on the Monday morning after the time change.
Further reading:
To further explore medication-free, alternative healthcare options, please visit our home page here or, if you’d specifically like to explore sleeping aids, including the Re-timer eye frames or Propeaq light therapy glasses, to help realign your sleep patterns, you’ll find them here

This article was first publishd here on 20th March, 2018. The author is Tom Wilemon, who is information officer in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center News and Communications Office and the editor of Momentum magazine. The article has been amend by our health library team to take account of the fact that our readership is primarily from the UK and Europe.