5 Easy Ways to Ease into Daylight Savings

In just a short while, we’ll be transitioning into the winter months. Colder days and longer nights will become the norm again as we prepare for the inevitable date each year when we “fall back” an hour. That’s right, it’s nearly Daylight Savings Time. As pretty much anyone — especially those with kids — can tell you, the switch is never easy. With more inside time for the little ones and less sunlight to help boost your mood, things can get a little bit stressful.

As most adults know, the best part about “falling back” is the extra hour of sleep. Unfortunately, the extra hour is a myth. Some folks at Harvard decided to ruin everyone’s delightful illusion by noting that, “[d]uring the following week [after daylight savings ends], many people wake up earlier, have more trouble falling asleep, and are more likely to wake up during the night. People who tend to be so-called short sleepers, logging under 7.5 hours a night, and early risers (also known as larks), have the most trouble adjusting to the new schedule.”

Fortunately, there are things you can do for both yourself and your kids to combat the hardships of the winter transition.

Set a Steady Bed Time

Start going to bed at the same time every night. Not only is this a great choice for parents (imagine an hour or two with just your significant other each evening!), but it’s also a healthy routine for kids of all ages to get into. Several studies have indicated that a routine bedtime for children and adults improved cognitive function, fewer instances of waking during the evening, and even improved behavior during the day.

One study specifically stated that, “The bedtime routine resulted in significant reductions in problematic sleep behaviors for infants and toddlers. Significant improvements were seen in latency to sleep onset and in number/duration of night wakings … Sleep continuity increased and there was a significant decrease in the number of mothers who rated their child’s sleep as problematic. Maternal mood state also significantly improved.“

Skip the nightcap

It might seem like a good idea to have a few drinks before heading to bed. In fact, for one night or two, some alcohol can even help you sleep. After that, though, alcohol can do some serious damage to your sleep cycle. In fact, “tolerance to alcohol’s sedative effects probably develops rapidly,” which means that it’s really a no-go to help yourself get to sleep during daylight savings time. So, be sure to steer clear of booze at least an hour before heading to bed.

Get Outside While the Getting is Good

During the winter, daylight is at a premium, so it’s important to get as much sunlight as possible, especially early in the morning. Early exposure to sunlight helps your body adjust to the new time line.

Try to get your kids out and about during the day and take breaks from your cubicle to walk around the block. If you can, take your sunglasses off and really take the opportunity to absorb the light. Simple exposure to sunlight helps your body recognize the difference between day and night which, in turn, allows it to recognize the appropriate time to fall asleep and stay awake.

When You Go To Bed, Go To Sleep

Turn off the TV, put down your tablet (even if you’re reading a book), and turn out the lights. The same should go for your kids. Just like getting outside while there’s sunlight to be had, a nice, dark environment will help your body adjust to the changing border of day and night. It’s extremely important to ensure that you’re maintaining your sleep cycles when making the transition to winter hours. If you can keep your natural circadian rhythms intact, you can weather the transition with ease.

Be Extra Alert When You’re Driving

It might surprise you to discover that some experts have claimed that the number of traffic accidents can actually increase following daylight savings time, sometimes by as much as 8 percent. “The behavioral adaptation anticipating the longer day on Sunday of the shift from DST in the fall leads to an increased number of accidents suggesting an increase in late night (early Sunday morning) driving when traffic related fatalities are high possibly related to alcohol consumption and driving while sleepy.” There is also some suggestion that this behavior can carry over into the morning hours, as well.

So, there you have it! Be sure to keep your sleeping rhythms fairly steady. Use natural light to help your body adjust to the new ratio of day to night. Take it easy on the booze right before bed. And be sure to keep an eagle eye on the road. Do all that and you’ll glide through the Daylight Savings transition with ease!