As the U.S. prepares for the clocks to go back one hour on 7th November, sleep expert April Mayer from Amerisleep reveals how to adapt your body to cope with the shift in sleeping patterns. You may not have the week or two ahead of time to prepare that this article suggests, but there are things you can do now that can make the adjustment just a little easier.
What happens to our bodies when the clock goes back an hour?
While an extra hour in bed sounds great, the change in sleep pattern can lead to a jet-lagging effect, as our bodies are used to waking and sleeping at certain times. If you don’t take steps to minimize the effect, it can take a few days or even around a week to get your sleep schedule back on track.
Our circadian rhythms are governed by sunlight and other environmental cues, which means you will feel the effects if your sleeping pattern changes without any preparation. While the clocks have changed, our body clocks are still existing in the previous pattern before the change – we may feel hungry at the ‘wrong’ times which can be difficult if we have set eating plans to organize, and we may find ourselves feeling sleepier or more awake at unusual moments.
However, knowing this means that you can take steps to smooth the transition and avoid any negative effects.
It’s important to start slowly adjusting your routine now, as having a week or more to make changes ensures that when the clocks go back, your body won’t experience the negative effects of a sudden change.
What should people do before the night of an anticipated clock change, to minimize disruption to sleep?
We recommend taking steps a week or two ahead of time and gradually setting your bedtime forward or back by 15 to 20 minutes. The night before the expected clock change, we recommend maximizing your relaxation by shutting off all your screens about two hours before bedtime. Unwind with a warm bath or shower, some light stretches, and a good book or another light activity like knitting.
How do you recommend that parents prepare their children for the clock change, and resulting change in routine?
Parents can prepare their children for the clock change by adjusting their bedtime a couple of weeks before the switch. When it’s almost time to move the clock back an hour, we suggest rolling forward a child’s bedtime by about 15 minutes, putting them to bed at the new time for a couple of days, then continuing the cycle by adjusting bedtime 15 more minutes.
Parents can also try to wear out their children the day of the change with numerous outdoor activities, ensuring the kids are tired enough to go to bed with minimal fuss. As a bonus, parents may also find it easier to fall asleep the night of the clock change.
Parents should avoid giving their children screens two hours before bedtime, as they emit a blue light which tricks the brain into keeping awake and preventing sleepiness.