Dealing with DST

There are a couple of times each year we either dread or look forward to - Daylight Saving Time (DST).   Whether we are setting our manual clocks to “spring forward” or “fall back,” our body’s internal clock may have trouble adjusting.  And for many people, this poses a problem.

Before addressing possible problems of DST, here’s a brief history - This twice a year ritual was first legislated as part of the Act of 1918 for the observance of DST nationwide.  However, that section of the act was repealed the following year with DST left up to local jurisdictions to decide what they wanted to do.  It wasn’t until after World War II when DST became more uniformly practiced throughout the U.S. Since then there have been several amendments made in regards to DST which have allowed individual states to remain on standard time if their legislatures approved of it.  Currently, all states participate with DST with the exception of Arizona (the state’s Navajo Nation does recognize DST) and Hawaii. 

Controversy has always surrounded DST since its inception.  There is the hassle of having to reset all clocks within your home twice a year, losing an hour of sleep in the spring, early darkness setting in during the evenings in the fall, and possible ill effects on our health.  No matter how you feel about this twice yearly time change, there are ways we can deal with the inevitable without it being a huge disruption to your health, sleep habits, and lifestyle.

·         Get a jump start on the coming time change

Daylight saving time is always scheduled to begin within the early morning hours of a Sunday – which is why clocks are set one hour ahead or one hour behind when we go to bed Saturday night - to have as little disruption as possible for the coming work week.

But, you can outsmart DST by beginning in it on Friday night or Saturday morning.  Simply reset your clocks at the start of the weekend eating your meals and coordinating your awake and sleep hours accordingly.  That way when Monday morning arrives, you’ll already have adjusted to the new time change without feeling the effects of it.

·         Try to avoid napping

Some people will want to get in some extra sleep during the day knowing DST is coming.  If you can, try to resist the urge for a long nap.  If you must take a nap, keep it brief – no more than 20 minutes – choose instead to keep active by taking a brisk walk or other energizing activity so that when bedtime rolls around, you’ll be sufficiently tired and fall right to sleep.

·         Increase exercise

With the advent of DST, remaining physically active is vital.  Exercise releases serotonin, a chemical in the brain helping your body to adjust to the change in time.  Working out early morning is best to help boost alertness and the blood pumping giving you a shot of adrenaline to meet the day head on.

·         Avoid heavy meals

The time change can be disruptive to our eating patterns.  It makes senses and is not unusual to be hungry for meals earlier or later than before.  The last thing you want to do is to eat a heavy meal late in the evening right before bed.  That heavy meal will fill like a ton of bricks trying to digest interfering with your ability to sleep.  Plan to eat your dinner meal at least 3 hours before retiring for bed avoiding high calorie/high fat foods causing trouble with digestion and falling asleep.

·         Don’t imbibe

If you find yourself having a hard time adjusting to a new sleep schedule with DST, you may be tempted to use alcohol as a nightcap to induce sleepiness.  Don’t do this.  Alcohol will only disrupt and interfere with your normal sleep cycle and is not reliable or a healthy way of addressing this issue.  Instead check out foods and drinks that help or hinder your ability to fall and stay asleep.

·         Come into the light

To help your body’s circadian rhythm readjust to the change in time, balancing the right combination of light and dark can be beneficial in being able to fall asleep and sleep more soundly.

Once morning arrives, open the shades letting in outdoor light or turn on lights within your home.  This tells your body it is daytime and time to wake up. Try to also spend more time outdoors during the day to reset your body’s time clock.  When night falls, dim the lights telling your body it’s time to wind down and to get ready to sleep.