Someone recently asked @sleepyheadctrl in Twitter:
“What’s the easiest way to prepare for the upcoming time change?“
First, SHC wants to say CONGRATULATIONS to the person asking this question, because they are smart enough to know that the time change requires some preparation.
Time to return to Standard Time
If you’re not preparing your circadian rhythms for this weekend’s shift (officially, at 2am on Sunday, November 4), then you’re putting yourself at risk for:
- daytime sleepiness or a feeling like jet lag
- disrupted nighttime sleep
- drowsy driving on your morning commute over the next few days
- mood disruption
- increase in depression and suicide
- cognitive deficits (slow brain processing speed, memory problems, poor judgment)
- more workplace accidents or mistakes
- an increase in the likelihood you could have a heart attack
- problems with medical therapies that rely upon timing (such as the use of an insulin pump)
It takes a few days to realign one’s circadian rhythms, and you’ll feel it, one way or another. Even one hour’s difference is a big deal.
Preparing for the time change
It’s not all that difficult to usher in the switch to Standard Time as long as you consciously plan ahead. The 5-step formula is simple, in theory:
If you go to bed at 10pm:
- Go to bed at 1015pm on the Wednesday night before the time change; on Thursday morning, wake up 15 minutes later than you usually do (to ensure you get enough sleep!)
- On Thursday night, go to bed at 1030pm; on Friday morning, wake up 15 minutes later than you usually do
- On Friday night, go to bed at 1045pm; on Saturday morning, wake up 15 minutes later than you usually do
- On Saturday night, go to bed at 11pm; on Sunday morning, wake up 15 minutes later than you usually do, and when you awaken, set your clock back one hour (so, if it’s 9am in the morning when you awaken, change your clock to 8am)
- On Sunday evening, go to bed at your normal time of 10pm and rise on Monday morning at your usual time
A couple of other things that can help you ease the circadian transition include:
- opening up window treatments to allow morning sunlight into your sleeping space to encourage a strong circadian reset, and
- eating meals about 15 minutes later during this 4-day period before the time change to help nudge your circadian system toward parity with the upcoming change
What if this temporary schedule is impossible?
This formula works, but only if you already have a routine bedtime and rise time AND you can adjust your morning rise time without compromising your morning commute or work schedule on Thursday and Friday (and assuming you don’t have to arise early on the weekend).
Of course, given our society is filled with working parents, shift workers, and people working more than one job to make ends meet, the 5-step formula isn’t simple at all.
In the event this formula doesn’t work for you, prepare to feel sleepy and “off” for the next week (especially during the first half of the week) while your circadian rhythms go through a reset. Be careful driving or operating machinery, and rethink big decisions at this time. Practice good sleep hygiene, at any rate: put away handheld devices at least an hour before bedtime, eliminate caffeine from your diet after lunch, and avoid heavy meals and alcohol within 2 hours of bedtime.
~ The Curator