Surviving Daylight Saving Time
Plus: Can you sleep too much?
Many of you will be springing forward again Sunday, March 12, when most of the United States switches to Daylight Saving Time. Though you might lose just one hour of sleep, the negative effects are surprisingly significant, so I’ve got some suggestions for how to ease the transition—and to help you sleep better on any given night.
First, a special Daylight Saving offer (get it?): The Kindle version of my book Make Sleep Your Superpower: A Guide to Greater Health, Happiness & Productivity is on sale for just 99 cents (compared to the list price of $3.99) today and tomorrow only.
In the days after the switch to Daylight Saving Time, auto accidents and heart attacks spike, and a nation continues a cycle that’s bad for human health and public safety. Scientists say U.S. should end DST and switch to permanent Standard Time, which was the norm before World War I and which is more in line with our internal body clocks, the circadian rhythm that governs the sleep-wake cycle. Congress, not to be swayed by the will of actual science, is considering the opposite: nixing Standard Time and switching permanently to DST. You can read about the debate and how the outcome will affect our minds and bodies in my latest article on Medium.
Meanwhile, here’s a two-pronged strategy to help you sleep right through the debate and wake up Sunday and Monday morning, and every morning, well-rested and rejuvenated in mind and body, ready to do the things you have to do and the things you want to do:
First: Adopt proven tactics for better sleep
Here are some of the most important, among the more than 20 I detail in my book:
Pick a bedtime and a wake-up time and stick to them seven days a week.
Spend as much time as possible outside every day soaking up natural daylight to keep your body clock well-timed. Start as soon as practical after you rise.
Get daily physical activity. I know, I know. Blah blah blah. But it works. Exercise promotes sleep, in the near term and the long run (suggestions).
Avoid alcohol, and don’t consume caffeine beyond early afternoon.
Don’t eat or drink anything in the three hours or so before bedtime.
Dim lights or turn them off in the evening, and wind down mentally and emotionally by turning off social media, the news, work stuff and anything else that tends to induce stress.
Second: Spring forward gently
Starting tonight, begin going to bed a few minutes earlier each night, until on Saturday night you’re hitting the hay 30 to 60 minutes earlier than normal. Aim to sleep the same amount of time during this transition, rising a bit earlier each morning.
Adjust meals, workouts and other activities forward, too.
Avoid naps, or take them early in the afternoon and keep ’em short. There’s no firm science on whether naps are good or bad, but this isn’t the week to lean on an afternoon snooze, which can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
Otherwise do all the smart things as usual: Exercise daily, eat well, and spend as much time outdoors as you can.
On Saturday evening, set your clocks ahead. Even though the change officially occurs at 2 a.m. on Sunday, you’ve prepared yourself to wake up to the new, arguably flawed time.
You might be tempted to take sleeping pills or a melatonin supplement. The former is a big no-no without a doctor’s advice, in my book, and the latter should be handled with great care. Instead, put some intention and effort into sleeping well and start a whole new cycle of improved mood, more energy and better health. Due to the stupid clock change, this is a great week to get started.
Your Sleep Quality Probably Sucks. How to Know and What to Do.
RELATED: Can You Sleep Too Much?
You can sleep too little—or too much, a new study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry suggests. People who typically sleep less than six hours a night were 27% more likely to have taken antibiotics or otherwise reported an infection in the previous three months. People who sleep more than 9 hours—which is often a sign of poor sleep quality—were 44% more likely for same. The connection seems to run both directions.
“The higher risk of reporting an infection among patients who reported short or long sleep duration is not that surprising as we know that having an infection can cause both poor sleep and sleepiness,” said study team member Ingeborg Forthun, PhD, a researcher at the University of Bergen in Norway. “But the higher risk of an infection among those with a chronic insomnia disorder indicate that the direction of this relationship also goes in the other direction; poor sleep can make you more susceptible to an infection.”
Indeed. As I’ve reported before, poor sleep lowers the immune system and ushers in lots of health risks and can even turn your immune system against you. And on the flip side, better sleep can add years to your life, a recent study confirmed.
We love our drugs, don’t we? But even some of the best medications have side effects and flaws and don’t work for everyone. In a recent deep dive on Medium, I wrote about a new study finding that physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than leading medications or counseling efforts like psychotherapy for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yet exercise is rarely prescribed, even though scientists are saying it should be a front-line treatment option. Yes, medications and other forms of therapy can be vital for some cases of severe depression or anxiety disorder, but exercise is underappreciated and underutilized. The story has generated dozens of incredibly thoughtful comments and personal accounts, many in support of the premise and others highly critical. Read the story >>>
Improving fitness and physical health and mental health requires goals. For motivation, science says we should set modest, achievable goals. When I started running again a few months ago, at age 60, the first goal was to do a mile without walking. Then two. Then I entered a 5k. Then a 10k. I recently I ran 12 miles in the nearby hills (I like to think of them as mountains!) prepping for a March 11 trail-based half-marathon that includes 1,700 feet of elevation gain. I’ll let you know how it goes. For the record, I never planned to run this far this late in life, let alone with so much uphill. My message: Whatever you wanna do, set incremental goals and get going.
Until next time, wishing you health and happiness.
Your support makes this free newsletter possible. If you find it useful, please consider forwarding it to someone who might benefit. You can find more of my health and wellness writing on Medium. Also find me on YouTube, Instagram, Mastodon, Twitter, Linkedin. And if you want to live a long, healthy, happy life, check out my book, Make Sleep Your Superpower.