Adjust Your Life to Adjust for Daylight Saving Time

Spring forward, fall back. So goes the pattern of Daylight Saving Time (DST), a weird little measure adopted by much of the Western world.

DST shifts everyone’s days either forward or backward by one hour, once a year, to increase the amount of daylight we experience during our waking hours. And as of yesterday, March 10, we have sprung forward.

While it’s nice to experience a little more sunlight in the evenings and there are purported energy savings thanks to people needing to use artificial light less often, DST isn’t without its detractors. Here are a few things to think of adjusting before you go strolling through the fresh daylight.

Stay Safe from Fatigue
Jumping forward an hour means that on March 10, you effectively enjoyed one less hour of sleep. If you’re having a harder time than usual reading through this article and picking out its important points, your sleep discrepancy likely bears some of the blame (we’d like to think it’s not just this writer’s prose).

Lack of focus due to sleep loss has more dire effects than missing a salient point in a brilliantly constructed online post. After jumping forward an hour, most studies note an increase in traffic fatalities in the weeks following, either due to drivers not adjusting their driving habits to changing light conditions, or because of increased fatigue on the evening commute home.

In other words, be extra careful on the roads, whether you’re driving or just a pedestrian, because whether you like it or not, safe driving depends on a well-rested human behind the wheel. Protect yourself and those around you by being extra cautious on the roads in the next week or two.

Adjust Your Habits, Protect Your Sleep
Scientists have proven the value of consistent sleep patterns again and again. For example, it’s often more valuable to get consistent sleep over getting more shuteye on an inconsistent basis.

This phenomenon is due to our internal circadian rhythm, which naturally aligns with the patterns of light and darkness around us. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, it has to readjust, and our sleep suffers–as well as our energy throughout the waking day.

If you didn’t make a concerted effort to go to bed earlier prior to March 10, it’s not too late¬ to help your body adjust. Try to turn in early tonight, to help ease the pain of the transition. Here are some helpful hints on not disrupting your rhythm, and getting to sleep when you want:

First, avoid caffeine after noon. That stuff keeps you awake.

Second, light sources from electronic devices are often mistaken by your brain for daylight and can keep you awake longer than you desire, so step away from your devices (even if it’s just your phone screen) for at least an hour before bed.

Finally, with one exception I don’t think we need to elaborate on, your bedroom should be exclusively for sleeping. Don’t confuse your brain by habituating it to being awake in bed for long periods of time, and then expect it to go right to sleep later.

Daylight Saving Time doesn’t have to be a big of a problem, if you make sure to adjust your schedule and habits accordingly. Get some shuteye, pay attention on the roads and enjoy the extra Vitamin D.