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Falling Back in the Fall: 5 Tips for Coping with the Time Change

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This year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on Sunday, Nov. 3, when we return to Standard Time. This means you should set back your clocks Saturday, just before midnight. That’s the obvious part of the changeover, but there are other measures you can take to help ease the transition.

The changeover can be more than a simple inconvenience. Disruptions in our normal sleep schedule can throw off hormonal balances and increase depression, anxiety, irritability, and mental exhaustion. Studies show that sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on mood, and the effect may increase rapidly. It’s a vicious cycle, as stress from lack of sleep can make it difficult to fall asleep the next night.

These five tips and reminders might be useful in helping you overcome the “fall back blues” more easily and safely:

  1. You’re gonna need a bigger sleep cycle. Actually, your internal clock will adjust within a week or so, but getting extra sleep in the days just before the time change will make that adjustment less noticeable. Do this by going to bed about 30 minutes earlier, as opposed to sleeping in the following morning. Be consistent with eating, social, bed, and exercise times, too. Raising your body’s core temperature can make it harder to fall asleep, so avoid heavy workouts within four hours of bedtime.
  2. Bedtime is downtime. When DST ends, it's especially important to stick with a bedtime routine. That’s especially true for young children. Routine is what helps create a powerful signal for sleep. Also, avoid screen time close to bedtime. The high-intensity light found in modern electronic devices hinders melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleepiness. It stimulates the brain and makes sleep difficult, the same way sunlight does.
  3. No cheating. Extra caffeine and naps are a quick fix for getting past the afternoon wall, but that’s usually a disaster for your natural sleep cycle. In fact, decreasing caffeine and alcohol consumption a few days before and after the time change can make your body’s adjustment easier.
  4. It’s dark out there. If you walk your pets or make your exercise run in the evening, remember that twilight and darkness arrive earlier once DST ends. Time to break out the reflective gear and flashlight. If you walk from the office to the parking lot, take precautions you may have not needed in spring and summer, such as walking with a colleague and checking with security.
  5. Let DST be your early warning system. Don’t you hate it when there’s a power outage and then you discover that the emergency flashlights you set aside have dead batteries? How about when the smoke detector starts chirping battery alerts or the TV stops working at halftime? Solution: Replace the batteries in all of your devices in the spring and again in the fall when we make the time change.