6 tips to adjust to daylight saving time without misery
It's the worst Monday of the year. If you're dreading it, these pointers will help you through the day.
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“Ahhh, good, it's daylight saving time,” said no one ever. Waking up at what feels like 7, when it’s actually 8? That’s a hard pass for me. Of course, protesting daylight saving doesn’t actually do anything—and I can’t complain too loudly about the extra sun after work. But adjusting is a bear, and we’re all a little off for a couple days post-time change. Here are a few tips to get you through what’s maybe the worst Monday of all Mondays.
1. Convince yourself you slept well
The brain works in mysterious ways. In a study published in 2014, researchers tested the effects of perception of one’s nightly sleep on tiredness and wakefulness the following day. Participants were split into groups: one group self-reported their sleep quality; another was told they spent nearly a third of their sleep time in REM, the restorative sleep stage; the remainder were told they’d spent just over 16% of their time asleep in REM sleep.
The participants who were told they’d spent a greater proportion of the night in REM performed better on a handful of cognitive tasks, and the researchers concluded that mindset can influence how you sleep and feel, positively or negatively. In other words: Fake it till you make it.
2. Go for a quick walk
“In general, moving your body is a more powerful stimulant than food,” says Dina Aronson, a nutritionist and the director of nutrition programming at Diet ID, a digital tool for tracking and food management. Snacks can provide a temporary energy boost, but according to one small study, taking a brisk walk for even a few minutes can give you an energy increase and lower muscle tension. In the study, participants ate a sugary snack or went for a 10-minute walk. The group that ate a sugary snack were only perkier for an hour following the treat, whereas those who walked saw benefits for two hours.
Plus, if you time your walk well, you can take advantage of another anti-drowsiness hack: sunlight. Bright morning light, but especially sunlight, is one factor that impacts your circadian rhythm, or the 24-hour clock that regulates your sleep and waking hours. Sunlight stops your body’s melatonin production, which helps you wake up and feel ready for the day. In addition, morning exposure to sunlight helps your body produce melatonin come evening, and makes it easier for you to fall asleep that night.
3. Fall back on a bit of caffeine
Caffeine seems to be the ever-present solution to tiredness. But it’s not as simple as having a couple espressos—there are other considerations at hand to utilize caffeine effectively. If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, drinking too much could disrupt your sleep the following night, perpetuating the bad sleep cycle and leaving you tired the next day, too. Aronson says that tea is one possible solution. “Caffeine from tea helps with focus without the jitters caused by caffeine from coffee,” she says. (You can still try a small cup of coffee, she notes.) Either one can “increase focus after a poor night’s sleep.”
What you put in your coffee or tea can also make a difference. Poor sleep can disrupt your appetite in different ways, but one thing you might notice is a proclivity for sugary foods. “We tend to crave sweets when we’re sleep-deprived,” Aronson says. But when sugar seems to be calling to you after a bad night, “it may be more about feeding a craving,” she says. It might be tempting to load your coffee with fatty cream and sugar, but you’re better off resisting as it can perpetuate poor sleep, she says.
4. Take a nap
Naps are a great way to reduce a sleep deficit or debt (which happen when you don’t get enough sleep one night or several nights in a row). And let’s face it, it’s almost impossible not to lose sleep after springing forward. If you’re feeling really drowsy, don’t be afraid to hit the hay for a siesta. You might worry about feeling groggy after waking up and being forced through the rest of your day in a total haze, but there are a handful of ways to minimize the risk of that happening.
To start, you’ll want to give yourself enough time to nap. Short naps are the common recommendation, but it turns out they’re not all that helpful when it comes to making up for lost sleep. It’s best to nap for at least 30 to 40 minutes, says Rebecca Spencer, a researcher who specializes in sleep at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In order to get 30 to 40 minutes of sleep, you probably need to allot an hour of your day to the pursuit so that you can relax enough to doze off, she says. If you can sleep longer, that’s fine, too—just don’t exceed 70 to 90 minutes, or you might negatively affect your next night’s sleep.
While it might sound counterintuitive, consider napping somewhere other than your bedroom, even if you’re working from home and it’s right there. This could help prevent your body from slipping into too deep of sleep, which can lead to “sleep inertia,” or the feeling you have when you wake up totally groggy after a nap, Spencer says. Moreover, sleeping outside your bedroom can mean you are woken more subtly by people walking in and out of a room or talking nearby, which is gradual as opposed to a blaring alarm clock. (Though, of course, there's an app for that: Gentle Wakeup for Android, is a good choice, or Alarm Clock Sleep Sounds Plus for iOS. The Philips Wake-up Light also gently increases light and sound when it's time to rouse you). If you’re feeling unsettled or restless, grabbing a weighted blanket might help you settle down and doze off.
5. Watch your food intake
No, this isn’t about dieting or super “clean” eating. Your goal should simply be to eat a balance of meals and snacks throughout the day to prevent your blood sugar from dropping, which can contribute to your feeling tired. “Scheduled eating helps by keeping blood sugar levels stable, preventing the highs and lows that lead to fatigue,” Aronson says.
If you are feeling tired, there are a few foods that can be particularly good to turn to for an energy boost. Aronson suggests dark chocolate, which contains theobromine. The compound in cacao acts as a vasodilator, meaning it encourages blood flow. In addition, researchers found it can boost mood and alertness. Another option to consider: “Foods high in the amino acid tyramine.” Tyramine is considered a stimulant. It can be found in aged cheese and fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut, she says, as well as soy products, dried fruits, citrus fruits, and ripe tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapples. However, if you’re prone to headaches and/or migraines, you’re probably better off avoiding this type of food as they are stimulants, she says.
6. Remember: It’s all temporary
The rule of thumb is that your body synchronizes to time changes incrementally. You adjust by about an hour each day, which is great news when it comes to daylight saving time as you could feel back to normal after just a day. Research has clouded this simple notion, though. A 2013 study found that sleep effects from daylight saving time in the spring can change your sleep for up to a week. Even so, a week isn’t the worst. If you feel like you’re really struggling to catch up and adjust your clock, be sure to expose yourself to natural light, the biggest factor in animals’ circadian rhythms. (If, say, you want to fall asleep earlier, get bright morning light early in the day.) Winding down with a nice nightly routine before bed could improve your sleep, too. And hey, once we're done with this round of daylight saving, we'll be halfway through all time changes for 2021!