Spring Forward Without Messing Up Your Health

Since 2006, the whole State of Indiana has been on daylight saving time. After 13 years we’re used to complaining about that hour of sleep we lose when we spring forward. For many, it’s just a nuisance. But for those who have sleep issues to begin with—as well as those at risk of heart attack and stroke—it’s a more serious health issue.

Essentially, that lost hour of sleep can give you a mild case of jet lag, throwing off the circadian rhythms that govern your waking and sleeping, and making you feel ill-rested for up to several days. That can be especially hard on those with heart disease and high blood-pressure, as well as those who suffer from mood disorders like depression.

The good news is, when you know it’s coming, you can prepare to ease yourself—and your family—through the transition. Here are a few simple ways to spring forward without losing the spring in your step:

Before the Shift, Start Going to Bed Earlier

To avoid your bedtime creeping later after you spring forward, begin shifting your bedtime earlier beforehand. Even going to bed a half hour early on Friday or Saturday night can make a difference. That way, your body won’t be fighting as hard to wake up an hour earlier in the morning.

Adjust Your Internal Clock

You get your waking and sleeping cues from a lot of sources; light and dark are important factors, but your daily habits play a role, too. If you’ve got an easy Saturday the day before, go ahead and set your clocks ahead, spending your day accordingly. Having all your activities and meals according to the new schedule will help your mind and body adjust ahead of time.

Sleep Well

The day before springing forward, avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or anything else that may impair your sleep. Try not to nap. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, cool, and dark before bedtime.

Be Active

Make sure you have enough physical activity in advance of the change. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise: Even an easy walk once a day in the weeks before the time change will improve your sleep and ease the transition. Just avoid exercise right before sleep.

Get Up and Around on Sunday Morning

The morning after the time change, don’t laze around, as tempting as that may be. Instead, get out of bed, have breakfast at your (new) normal time, get out in the sunlight, and get moving. You’ve got to keep adjusting to the change, or you’ll lose the progress you’ve made toward making the shift.

These methods are also great for adjusting when it comes time to fall back in the autumn, or for adjusting to a time change while traveling. The key is to take your body’s internal clock seriously and make sure you’re getting enough sleep on a regular basis. That, and remembering to reset all those clocks.

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