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Time change: How to fall back without falling over

Health and Wellness

Yet another time change is almost upon us. While the time “falling back” one hour seems a little easier than skipping an hour of sleep in the spring, the end of Daylight Saving Time still has its problems.

But don't despair! The fall time change, which comes Nov. 1 this year, doesn't have to disrupt your sleep. You can start a plan today to make the transition easier on your body.

Health sleep habits for the win

The starting place for making a smooth transition lies in healthy sleep habits. You can start making good sleep choices right away and throughout the year.

Healthy sleep is an important pillar of a healthy lifestyle year-round. It promotes physical and mental wellness. Good sleep even boosts your daytime performance.

To establish healthy sleep, work on:

  • Creating a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Sleeping enough every night — that means seven to nine hours for most adults.
  • Incorporating healthy eating and exercise during the day.
  • Having a healthy bedtime routine, which includes avoiding alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and large meals for several hours before bedtime.
  • Turning off digital screens at least an hour before bedtime—this helps your body know it’s time to produce melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleepiness.

Heading into any time change with good sleep habits will make the transition easier. Closer to the time change — about four to six days ahead — adjust your sleep schedule a little each day. In the fall, that means staying awake 10 to 15 minutes later each night so your internal body clock can adjust to the one-hour change over several days.

Recovering after the fall time change

Here are some tips for staying awake and sleeping well after the time changes:

  • Spend time in outdoor light in the morning to help you feel alert and reset your natural internal clock.

  • Fight daytime sleepiness with a little caffeine (up to 2 cups of coffee) or exercise to stimulate alertness.
  • Take short naps of less than 30 minutes before 3 p.m.
  • Use a 1 or 3-milligram dose of melatonin 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime to help cue your body to sleep.
  • Keep your bedtime routine healthy by avoiding stressful activities in the evening and putting your electronics away outside of your bedroom at night.

While some find the time change difficult, with a little planning you can make sure you sail through the change with little impact on your daily — and nightly — life.

Sleep problems can be triggered by time change, but there are also many sleep disorders that can affect our sleep health. Learn more about sleep issues and how you can get the help you need from the Adventist Health Portland sleep clinic.