Springing forward sounds so hopeful, doesn’t it? We’ll shake off the depressing winter doldrums in favor of walking into the light—literally. This year, daylight saving time starts Sunday, March 12 at 2 a.m. We’ll set our clocks an hour ahead and herald the return of darkness to the more appropriate after-dinner hour, rather than its recent encroaching on our afternoons. Well, except “Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation), Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and American Samoa,” according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. They don’t follow daylight saving time.
But the switch isn’t all sunshine. We also lose an hour of sleep, when many of us are already operating at a sleep deficiency. So how do you make 2023 the year you better navigate the time change, rather than spending tortuous days counting down the hours until you can count sleep? Here are five simple tips.
1. Get into a good sleep routine before daylight saving time hits.
“Mounting evidence shows the dangers of seasonal time changes, which have been linked to increased medical errors, motor vehicle accidents, increased hospital admissions and other problems,” said Jennifer Martin, president of the board of directors for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), in a 2023 AASM article.
So don’t sleep on taking action before the time change strikes. The Sleep Foundation’s tips for preparing for daylight saving time include getting into the practice of “going to bed and waking up at the same time each day—including the weekends” in order to prepare. And aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
For a few nights prior to springing forward, the AASM recommends “Gradually [adjusting] bedtimes and rise times by shifting them 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night beginning a few nights before the time change” in order to make the transition less of a shock to your system.
Controlling light and temperature also help promote the most optimal conditions to fall and stay asleep. Keep your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, and cut down on screen time as you prepare to quiet down
2. Reduce your intake of coffee, alcohol and added sugar.
Whatever romantic notions you hold about coffee, save your love affair for strictly mornings.
“Drinking caffeine in the afternoon can disrupt our body’s ability to get enough sleep,” says St. Louis fitness instructor Lauren McDonnell. “The same goes with alcohol. Ditch that nightly glass of wine or beer if you want to have a better night of sleep!”
Another no-go when you’re trying to catch some Zs (and have a smooth transition through daylight saving time): sugar. “Sugar causes spikes in our glucose levels, which lead to 2 p.m. crashes, poor sleep and more sugar cravings,” McDonnell says. “Sugar comes in so many forms, so it’s important to read your nutrition labels and know the many different aliases of sugar.”
3. Have dinner earlier in the evening (and eat protein).
Chris Winter, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution, told The New York Times that meal timing is a key component to good sleep. When you eat too close to bedtime, your body is more focused on digestion than relaxing and falling asleep. So finish dinner at least a few hours before you hit the hay.
As for what to eat? You can’t go wrong with protein.
“Every meal or snack should contain protein, as it helps you stay fuller for longer,” McDonnell says. “When you have that terrible hangry feeling, that can lead to poor food choices, which will definitely affect your energy and sleep.”
4. Get outside and exercise every day, not just during daylight saving time.
The New York Times also noted that “a good dose of sunlight, even if it’s just for 15 minutes first thing in the morning, can help your body wake up and reset for the day ahead.” And when your goal is to unlock more energy in your day-to-day life, McDonnell recommends focusing on workouts that get your heart rate up and require heart rate variability.
“This means that your heart rate goes up, then works to get back to a lower rate, before being challenged to increase again,” she says.
So if you’re walking, stop and do bodyweight squats every few minutes. If you’re strength training, lift more challenging weights, then allow your body to recover for 60-90 seconds before resuming lifting. Every little bit helps!
“When your heart rate varies, it boosts the oxygen inside your body,” McDonnell says. “This means your body can function more efficiently, needing less energy to do so.”
5. Schedule and visualize success (aka less sleepiness) through daylight saving time.
Waking up at a certain time, fitting in a workout, saving the latest Law and Order: SVU for the weekend rather than staying up to catch it… These are commitments that help you be the best version of you. So pencil them in and honor them, just as you would your commitments to loved ones. Especially during times of stress and transition, like the time change.
McDonnell recommends thinking retroactively to help you move into new habits. “Picture yourself after a day of moving your body, eating nutritious foods and having energy. Then think how you’ll feel when your day ends and you hit snooze 10 times, were short-tempered because you started the morning wrong, ate the convenient but not healthy food and then had to have the 2 p.m. coffee to survive the day.”
Armed with these tips, we wish you a smoother reset this daylight saving time—and sweet dreams!
Photo by Mariia Korneeva/Shutterstock
Jill McDonnell is a Chicago-based content writer and communications professional. She has a bachelor's degree in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller novel.