How to Handle the Time Change

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


A few simple steps can get you back on track quickly.

It happens every year, but Daylight Saving Time still manages to catch many people by surprise. Every spring, clocks are pushed forward one hour from 2:00am to 3:00am to start Daylight Saving Time. And every fall, they are dropped back an hour (2:00am becomes 1:00am) to go into Standard Time.

Almost everyone in the U.S. springs forward on the second Sunday in March and falls back on the first Sunday in November. That means that the second Monday in March is likely going to be a day when most people will feel exhausted, thanks to a way-too-early-seeming wake-up call. In fact, the average person sleeps 40 minutes less the night following the springtime change than they do on a typical night. While the majority of people will adjust by that Wednesday, some unlucky ones will end up suffering for an entire week.

It seems like a small thing, but moving your entire day forward by an hour can really throw off your sleep cycle. Suddenly, there is less light in the morning (which is when you need to wake up) and more light at night (which is when you should be falling asleep). Instead of operating in a low gear after the time change, do what you can to prepare yourself ahead of time so you sail through the adjustment easily.

  1. Make sure you’re caught up on sleep. If you’re already sleep-deprived when Daylight Saving Time comes, it’s going to hit you harder than if you’ve been regularly getting seven to nine hours a night. So in the week leading up to the time change, pay special attention to clocking the right amount of shut eye.
  2. Use light to your advantage. How bright your environment is affects your sleep cycle. So, whenever possible, head outside early in the mornings and soak in some sunlight. The opposite holds true for nighttime: Make sure you dim your lights when you want to signal to your body that it’s time to go to sleep and avoid staring at computer screens late in the day.
  3. Rethink your evening activities. Tweaks to your nighttime routine can help you drift off more easily—something that’s tough to do when you spring forward. A few important ones: Limit caffeine and alcohol intake in the hours leading up to bedtime and don’t schedule a nighttime workout.