Daylight saving time starts March 11, setting clocks forward an hour and leaving most Americans with 60 minutes less of precious weekend sack time. The start of daylight savings -- officially at 2 a.m. Sunday -- is considered harder to handle than its end in the fall, and it can be tough for the third of adults who suffer temporary insomnia from any sudden change in schedule. In fact, people with diabetes and hypertension are at increased risk for heart attacks in the days after the start of daylight saving time, according to Dr. Raj Dasgupta of the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Here are some free or inexpensive techniques to help handle the time shift.
The start of daylight saving time is no surprise, so why not plan for it? Dasgupta suggests setting your alarm forward a few days earlier to get adjusted. Instead of shifting a full hour all at once, some people could benefit from gradual adjustments -- maybe 15 minutes a day -- to let the body's internal clock ease into a new schedule.
Taking short naps of 15 to 20 minutes can ease the transition to daylight saving time, Dasgupta says. He notes that some people use “caffeine naps” in which they have some coffee or tea and then immediately take a nap. When they wake up 20 minutes or so later, they feel extra refreshed from the nap and the caffeine that has taken effect in the meantime. What’s more, National Napping Day is observed annually the day following the return of daylight saving time (March 12 this year) and encourages everyone with the opportunity to catch up on the hour of sleep they lost due to the time change.
Longer days and changing weather mean more daylight. It also means more opportunity to soak up some vitamin D, which plays an important role in maintaining circadian rhythms. So take advantage of the time change, and get outdoors and take in as much sun as possible, starting first thing in the morning.
For those who can't avoid or resist screen time just before bedtime, there are other options. Apps such as F.lux counteract the blue light by giving computer screens a warmer glow in the evening. Phones increasingly do this automatically, or have a setting that can be activated.
People love to feel cozy and warm in bed, but the best room temperature for slumber is 60 to 67 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Setting the thermostat in this range helps body temperatures drop, which facilitates deeper sleep. Babies and toddlers should have the temperature slightly higher in their rooms -- 65 to 70 degrees.
A poll by the National Sleep Foundation showed a strong link between vigorous exercise (running, cycling, or swimming, for instance) and sleep quality. But intense workouts increase core temperatures, and not allowing enough time to cool down before bed can lead to insomnia, Dasgupta says.
Supplements of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles, can ease travel-related and short-term schedule changes, according to Mayo Clinic. But there's no precise recommended dosage for non-pharmaceutical sleep aids and plenty of variability in effectiveness, Dasgupta says.
The herb valerian, often taken in tea or capsules, has helped with sleep and anxiety problems for centuries. Studies suggest it has an effect similar to medicines such as Xanax and Valium, but weaker. It's also not known to be addictive and has fewer side effects. Still, even something as gentle as valerian should be approved by a doctor first, especially for anyone who fears interaction with another drug.