Last fall, I wrote a blog post on how to help yourself “fall back” with ease. Here are the ideas I shared then, updated for springing forward.
The beginning of Daylight Savings is such a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s lovely to have more light in the evenings! On the other hand, it stays dark so much longer in the mornings - and that makes it harder for everyone to get up. If the weather hasn’t made us groggy yet, the darkness suddenly will!
But the worst part about Daylight Savings ending is adjusting to the new time. Somehow, changing just one hour is so disruptive! It can take a full week to really feel like we’ve settled into the new normal, and meanwhile, we turn to caffeine to get us on track faster - which of course then makes it even harder to sleep when we need to.
Rather than using those unhealthy coping mechanisms this spring, what if you adjusted to the time change by changing up your routine?
How You Do It
Here are the three ways to help yourself and your family adjust to Daylight Savings:
1) Make the change gradually.
Rather than suddenly changing your bedtime or when you get up on the actual day of the time change, try making the change gradually. Especially if your kids are little, and not yet involved in a bunch of outside activities, this is a great way to ease everyone in. Try one of these:
Make the shift super gradual. Start the Monday before, with just a 10-minute adjustment to bedtime and getting up the next day. (If you have little ones who are napping, shift their naps, too.) Each of the following days, shift another 10 minutes, until you get to the full hour. This may require other changes to your family routine, like the timing of breakfast or dinner - so only do it if you’ve got some flexibility!
Make the shift a couple days before. On Thursday night, move bedtime 15 minutes earlier than usual, and get up 15 minutes earlier. (If your kids are taking naps, shift those by 15 minutes, too.) Repeat on Friday and Saturday, and you’ll be on track to have bedtime happen when it should after the time change on Sunday.
2) Use Saturday to kick-start the new normal.
Make a plan for the day before the time change that helps make sure your body is ready to rest when you want it to that night. Here are a few ways you can do it:
Wear everyone out. Get outside for a hike or play athletic games, ride bikes, run, whatever is fun and exhausting! With luck, even if you go to bed at the usual time, the extra energy expended will help everyone sleep late the next day.
Have a special morning outing. Plan a fun special activity for the morning that will get everyone up earlier than usual. Invite another family for breakfast and morning playtime; go out to breakfast early; take a day trip that requires leaving at the crack of dawn - whatever feels fun and energizing.
Split the difference. Put everyone to bed just half an hour later than usual, rather than the full hour. Especially with toddlers, that can help prevent those bedtime meltdowns that come from sheer exhaustion.
3) Prepare yourself to get the sleep you need.
You can help your body make the time change adjustment by changing your habits around going to bed. Here are two ways to ensure you get the sleep you need:
Prioritize sleep beforehand. Often, we have so much trouble with the one-hour time shift because our bodies are already exhausted. Give yourself the gift of a good night’s sleep for several days before - if you can, for a full week. It’ll make the adjustment that much easier. Here are a few of my favorite ideas on how to unwind and get the sleep you need.
Use a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone synthesized in the brain that regulates sleep and wake cycles. You’ve probably heard of taking it when you fly across time zones, to help your body adjust, but you can also use it as a sleep aide at home. It’s non-addictive, so you can just take it when you need it and not worry about getting hooked. Here’s more on my favorite melatonin supplement.
Which of the tips sounds like it fits you and your family best? What do you need to do to make it happen? Take a minute to decide what you’re going to do this March right now - and then make sure you consult anyone whose buy-in you’ll need to make it happen (like your partner, or older children). You’re on your way to a more easeful time change!
I'd love to hear how it goes! Share your experience in the comments below.