Lose Zero Sleep During Daylight Saving Time With This Sleep Expert's Simple Trick

Daylight saving time can steal your sleep, but there's a simple way to avoid that.
Image Credit: Luis Alvarez/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Sunday, March 14: Otherwise known as the day you wake up confused about why you slept in so late. It's the start of daylight saving time (DST), when clocks are set forward and you "lose" an hour of sleep.

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Aside from the fact that you're left with one fewer hour of R&R and time to get things done on Sunday, you'll also probably struggle to go to bed at your normal time.

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For instance, if you typically go to bed at 10, now your body is telling you to stay up until 11 — and you might do it! Then on Monday, you have to wake up to go to work or school. And that's where the trouble starts, because we're already living in an "incredibly sleep-deprived world," clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Michael Breus, PhD, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

"Losing that hour of sleep is actually worse on an already sleep-deprived brain," Breus says. "The number-one time for motor vehicle accidents is after we lose an hour of sleep."

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It's true: In a January 2020 report in ​Current Biology​, spring daylight saving time increased fatal car accidents by 6 percent, and that uptick lasts for the entire week following the time change. (A full 28 fatal accents might be prevented each year if daylight saving time didn't exist, according to the paper.)

Not only that, but this time shift can also affect brain function, decreasing energy and alertness, notes a November 2019 paper in ​JAMA Neurology​.

Bottom line: It's not "just an hour," but something that can affect your health and safety in big ways.

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How to Adjust to DST Without Losing Sleep

Because DST is coming for us and is happening — no matter how loud the cries to do away with it — you can take matters into your own hands and try to reduce your burden of exhaustion.

DST can be tough because it creates a misalignment in your circadian rhythm. So, here's what you do: Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night in the four days leading up to daylight saving time, Breus suggests. It's an entirely practical strategy that he recommends in general, but is especially important if you have kids, to make the transition easier on them, too.

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Here's what that might look like if you typically go to bed at 10 p.m.:

  • Wednesday:​ Bedtime at 9:45 p.m.
  • Thursday:​ Bedtime at 9:30 p.m.
  • Friday:​ Bedtime at 9:15 p.m.
  • Saturday:​ Bedtime at 9 p.m.

Inching your sleep schedule backward a bit day-by-day will make the shift feel more seamless. It's easier to go to bed 15 minutes earlier than trying to make yourself go to bed at (what feels like) an hour earlier on Sunday night when you're still wired.

Set a nighttime alarm to remind yourself to head to bed, Breus says, and build in some extra time to wind down and get ready.

Make sure you're setting your alarm to wake up 15 minutes earlier as well, otherwise you haven't actually shifted your sleep-wake schedule and you'll still be in for the shock of an early Monday morning.

So if you typically wake up at 6 a.m., set your alarm as follows:

  • Thursday:​ Wake up at 5:45 a.m.
  • Friday:​ Wake up at 5:30 a.m.
  • Saturday:​ Wake up at 5:15 a.m.
  • Sunday:​ Wake up at 6 a.m. (because you've "lost" an hour overnight)

To quickly sync your circadian rhythm to an earlier wakeup, Breus also recommends going outside in the early morning without sunglasses and looking in the general direction of the sun for 15 minutes. (For your eye health, don't stare at the sun directly.)

If the grass or sidewalk isn't too chilly, take off your shoes and stand barefoot, he says. The technique — called grounding or earthing — may help better regulate your body clock, per a January 2012 paper in the ​Journal of Environmental and Public Health​.

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