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How to Prepare Your Body for Daylight Saving Time

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(Family Features) Millions of Americans will soon get extra sunlight in the evenings when daylight saving time (DST) – observed by every state except Arizona and Hawaii – begins on the second Sunday in March and clocks are set ahead by one hour at 2 a.m.

While the extra daylight is a welcome change for most, failing to prepare for DST can have consequences. In fact, research from the Sleep Foundation has found a lack of sleep caused by the time change can affect thinking, decision-making and productivity. The change can alter your circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that helps control sleep and other biological processes, which may cause mood fluctuations, and the transition has been associated with short-term risk of heart attack, stroke and traffic accidents.

However, making small adjustments ahead of DST can help reduce its impact on your sleep and minimize negative effects. Consider these tips to help navigate the time change.

Reset Your Internal Clock
As you get ready to “spring forward,” gradually adjust your sleep schedule throughout the week leading up to the time change, which can help prevent unnecessary shock to your system. The American Academy of Sleep recommends going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each day than normal, and other daily activities like mealtimes and exercise can also be moved up slightly to help acclimate to the change. Awakening earlier and getting extra light exposure in the morning can also help adjust your circadian rhythm.

Upgrade Your Sleep Environment
Creating a bedroom environment that is conducive to sleep can help ensure you get a good night’s rest, which is especially important leading up to the time change when you effectively lose an hour of sleep. Start optimizing your sleep space comfort by choosing a supportive mattress and comfortable bedding then block out unwanted light with blackout curtains and dampen unwanted noises using a fan or soothing white noise machine.

To help regulate temperature, set the thermostat to 60-70 F – a cooler thermostat setting helps maintain a lower core temperature – then adjust if too hot or too cold by adding or removing blankets or changing your pajamas. Lavender essential oils, or another fragrance like peppermint or heliotropin, can also help improve relaxation and sleep quality.

Avoid Screens Before Bed
In the days leading up to DST, experts recommend turning off electronics, including televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets, at least 1 hour before bedtime as the blue light from screens can suppress production of melatonin, the substance that signals the body it’s time for bed. If necessary, cut back on screentime in smaller increments leading up to the time change or swap evening screen usage for other activities like crossword puzzles, meditation or reading a book.

Phase Out Caffeine in the Evenings
While avoiding caffeine later in the day can help you fall asleep easier at night, experts suggest limiting and slowly reducing your caffeine intake in the days prior to DST. Choosing half-caffeinated coffee, mixing regular and decaf or cutting out 1-2 caffeinated drinks during the week can help sleep patterns ahead of the change. However, be wary that giving up caffeine “cold turkey” can sometimes lead to headaches.

Find more tips for healthy living all year at eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


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