Dr. Alon Y. Avidan, the director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, says the fall time switch is certainly easier on the body than when we lose an hour of sleep each spring. But the shift still takes its toll, tinkering with the body’s delicate circadian rhythms, and that can lead to several days of feeling sluggish and less alert.
The solution, Avidan said, is to do everything you can to stick to your normal sleep schedule. Within a few days, he predicted, you should feel back on track.
Here are nine tips for doing just that:
- Remember to change all — repeat, all — the clocks before you go to sleep Saturday night (including the one on the microwave, the stove top, thermostat, the car dashboard ... ). Obvious, right? But it’s oh, so easy to have your schedule thrown off because you forgot to reset the clock on, say, the coffeemaker.
- Don’t use this time change as an opportunity to “sleep in,”. After you change the clocks, aim to hit the hay about an hour later than you normally would, and try to get up at the same time you normally would on Sunday mornings — or even a little earlier. It will make it easier to fall asleep at your usual time on Sunday evening.
- On Sunday morning, avoid caffeine after an early morning cup of joe. Your goal is to fall asleep easily on Sunday night and get back into your weekly rhythm.
- Same goes for alcohol. “Never, ever, ever use alcohol” to try to get some sleep. Alcohol ends up having the opposite effect and leads to a restless night.
- Avoid eating or drinking anything else that might be too stimulating right before bedtime.
- Get some extra sun — and some exercise — the day before and after the time change, and even a few days after that. Enjoying the rays for a few extra minutes will help you reset your system, and the exercise will help you tucker you out so you fall asleep easier at night.
When your normal bedtime beckons Sunday night:
- Try to go to sleep at the same time you normally would, even though you might still feel it’s an hour earlier.
- Take the time to wind down before bed. Consider a warm bath or shower, a cup of decaf tea and a relaxing book. Put away all electronic devices and turn off the TV.
- If you already know that the time change messes up your sleep schedule for a few days, you might be tempted to “take something” to help you catch some Zzzzs. Resist the temptation, as that can ultimately do more harm than good.
The sooner you can get back to your “normal” schedule on your own, he said, the better you will feel.