March 6, 2023

Stepping back is best for springing forward: tips for dealing with the beginning of daylight saving time

Go to bed a little earlier than usual. Take a good look at the morning sun when you get up.

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated for the March 2023 time change.

Going to sleep a little earlier a few nights before the start of daylight saving time is one of the best steps a person can take to prepare for the upcoming time change, according to a sleep expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“One of the most important things to do is go to bed a little earlier than usual,” said Beth Malow, MD, professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “Backing up bedtime for a few days leading up to daylight saving will help a person acclimate and be able to wake up earlier when the clocks are moved forward.

“Regardless of the time a person goes to bed, starting the process about 15-20 minutes earlier will allow you to be more rested,” stressed Malow, chief of the Division of Sleep Disorders at VUMC.

On Sunday, March 12, at 2 a.m. clocks are moved ahead one hour. The practice is commonly called “spring forward,” which equates to “losing” one hour of sleep.

Malow offered additional tips for a smooth transition:

  • Light exposure : “Once the transition to daylight saving time begins, getting exposed to bright light in the morning will help with synchronization,” said Malow. “Getting out into the natural light is best, but opening blinds is also very good.”
  • Avoid the energy slump: “While a 20-minute power nap early in the day is OK, avoid giving in to the inner voice that you have lost an hour of sleep and you need a long nap,” she said. “It is also best to refrain from drinking caffeinated drinks to boost your energy — try engaging in an activity instead, outdoors, in the natural light.”
  • Everyday practices for good sleep: “Staying off your phone before going to bed, doing calming exercise to relax before bedtime and taking a hot shower or bath are all helpful in preparing for a good night’s rest.”

During the days following the time change, Malow said challenges are typically short lived and things should be back on track sooner rather than later.

But she urged parents to be aware if sleep issues persist and other sleep disorders like snoring, leg movements or sleep terrors are evident; there may be a need to consult with a pediatrician for additional resources.

As a reminder, the time change is a good opportunity to check carbon monoxide monitors and smoke alarm batteries to ensure they are in working order.

Photo credit: iStock