How to prepare for impending daylight saving time or the ‘spring ahead’ time change

Daylight saving time is almost here, which means the dreaded “spring forward” is just around the corner.

So when is daylight saving time in 2020? Daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 8. That means clocks will jump from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.

You should set your clocks forward before going to bed Saturday night. Daylight saving time, often incorrectly referred to as daylight savings time, will end Sunday, Nov. 1 when you “fall back” an hour.

So even though we lose an hour of sleep, what can you do to make waking up Sunday and Monday less painful?

Start planning for it now and take a gradual approach. Experts recommend you start waking up 15 minutes earlier than you normally would starting a few days before the time change.

In fact, if you start now, by Sunday, you’ll be waking up at the time you’re used to — even when clocks spring forward an hour.

“Ten to 15 minutes a day is typically the incremental approach that’s most tolerable by most human beings,” said Dr. Daniel Lewin, the associate director of sleep medicine and an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Children’s National Medical Center in D.C.

Lewin said it’s actually easier for people to change their sleeping habits by changing when they wake up, as opposed to trying to go to bed earlier.

If you start waking up earlier, that’ll increase what Lewin calls “sleep appetite,” which should make it easier to fall asleep a bit earlier at night.

In addition to gradually waking up early, consider putting the cellphone away well before bedtime.

“When we’re exposed to light, particularly in the evening, it delays our sleep onset time or blunts our drive to go to sleep earlier … It used to be that it was just the sun that really had the greatest impact, but now that we carry around our little light-emitting devices pretty much everywhere we go or are on them most of the time, those can actually shift our schedule, which could have some impact on sleep duration,” Lewin said.

As you change the clocks, make sure to continue with other positive health behaviors. Make sure you’re:

  • Getting plenty of exercise (although make sure you exercise a couple of hours before bedtime).
  • Limiting your coffee and other caffeine intake to the morning hours.
  • Cutting back on the nightcaps as alcohol can complicate the onset of sleep and worsen sleep quality.

The twice-a-year time change is essentially like traveling across time zones, Lewin told WTOP, which can be hard on the body.

Adults typically need between 6 1/2 and eight hours of sleep per night.

“So if we begin to lose sleep, then that impacts all kinds of daily function,” Lewin said.

Just as important as the amount of sleep you’re getting is when you’re getting the sleep.

“So in reality, we need to not only maintain a certain duration of sleep, but also optimize the timing of our sleep period,” Lewin said.

That means trying to get to bed at the same time each day.

“There’s essentially no such thing as catch-up. Our body adjusts to decreased sleep, but that’s a very complex process. And depending on how you’ve been sleep-deprived, whether it’s pulling an all-nighter, because you’ve got a lot of work to do, or whether it’s doing shift work, both of those impacts, if you don’t work toward them, and adjust to them gradually, can really have short-term negative health implications.”

Come Monday morning, there’s bound to be more than a few drowsy commuters headed to work.

“One of the most important messages is to never drive sleep-deprived,” Lewin said. “And when we change the clocks or when we travel across time zones, there always is that risk that we’re going to be driving at a time of day when we’re not optimally functioning or we’ll have decreased sleep, which can also erode our attention.”

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