Prevent Daylight Savings Related Jet Lag
I love nearly everything about fall–changing colors, apple picking, pumpkin-spiced everything. But if there’s one thing I could do without, it’s turning the clocks back for daylight savings. For years, I just accepted the fact that it would take days of morning grogginess and evening fatigue until my body caught up with the changing of the clocks.
If you feel the same about daylight savings, I have some good news. There is a safe, effective, and 100% natural way to keep your internal clock in sync with the clock on the wall. It can replace that ever-present jet-lagged feeling with…feeling perfectly normal!
So, read on to learn why your body’s clock lags during daylight savings and how this “secret weapon” can help you avoid that jet-lagged feeling.
How Daylight Savings Affects Your Body
Spring forward and fall back. It’s literally as predictable as clockwork. You see the dates on the calendar months in advance. But even though you know it’s coming, and it’s only a difference of one hour, for some reason your body (and mine too) can’t seem to transition from the night before daylight savings to the morning after it without feeling a little off.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. Gaining an hour of sleep in the fall and losing an hour of sleep in the spring shouldn’t feel like life-changing events. I’ve had plenty of nights where I didn’t get enough sleep but I rebounded back after sleeping well the following night–or with a strong cup of coffee the next morning!
But daylight savings is more than just losing and gaining an hour of sleep. During fall daylight savings, the sun sets before dinner and rises before breakfast. As a result, it’s common to feel tired earlier than usual in the evening. During spring daylight savings, the sun sets considerably later and rises a little later than you are used to. As a result, it’s common to go to bed later.
The amount of light in the sky plays a significant role in your body’s ability to sleep. When the sky darkens, your body releases a hormone called melatonin, which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Before dawn, your body stops releasing melatonin so that you can wake up without feeling groggy.
That’s what happens on most days and nights, but daylight savings disrupts this process. The changing of the clocks changes the primary external cue that our body relies on to help fall asleep and wake up. But your body’s circadian rhythm–its internal schedule–doesn’t immediately adjust.
This explains the grogginess that you feel after daylight savings. But it doesn’t mean you have to accept that groggy feeling for a week or so a couple times per year.
Get Your Rhythm Back
You can’t change the fact that daylight savings disrupts your body’s release of melatonin. But you can help your body produce more of it.
As I said earlier, darkening skies induce the release of melatonin. Exposure to light does the opposite. That includes the many sources of artificial lights in your home–lamps, TVs, smartphones, tablets, and more. Turning those lights down or off in the evening–especially in your bedroom–can boost your body’s melatonin production, thus helping your body feel more at rest when it’s time to sleep.
These tips are effective during most nights of the year, but they aren’t as effective after daylight savings because your body’s clock is still an hour off. So that’s why I recommend that you take a melatonin supplement. Unlike sleeping pills, which contain a cocktail of unnatural substances, melatonin is perfectly natural.
Start by taking 1 mg of melatonin about 30-60 minutes before your preferred bedtime. If 1 mg doesn’t work for you after a day or two, you can gradually increase your dosage up to 3 mg.
Do’s and Don’ts for A Better Night’s Sleep
In addition to melatonin, there are a handful of other ways to get more and better sleep 365 days a year, not just the days after daylight savings. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that I recommend:
- Do exercise regularly, if not daily. Exercise is the healthiest thing you can do for your body, hands down. Its benefits are countless, but one of its biggest is helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. You don’t have to run marathons. Even a walk around the block after dinner is better than nothing.
- Do consider adding magnesium to your diet. Magnesium is an essential mineral that the human body cannot make on its own. Magnesium plays a prominent role in several essential bodily functions, including sleep. Healthy levels of magnesium can lead to deeper, more restful sleep because magnesium regulates GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Magnesium can be found in dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts, unprocessed whole grains, legumes, squash, and broccoli.
- Do plan ahead for tomorrow before going to bed. I admit that I lie in bed thinking about all the things I have to do tomorrow. But when you clean your mind of those thoughts before climbing into bed, you are more able to be in a peaceful, restful state of mind.
- Don’t consume caffeine in the afternoon and evening. For obvious reasons! Caffeine has a half-life of up to 6 hours. That means 6 hours after that cup of coffee, half the caffeine is still surging through your body. Avoid any caffeine after lunch time if possible.
- Don’t drink alcohol in the two hours before bedtime. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy, but ultimately it disrupts your R.E.M. sleep, which is associated with more awakenings and more restless sleep.
- Don’t eat a large dinner, especially in the late evening. The more food you eat in one sitting, the longer it takes to digest. And when your body is working hard to digest a big dinner, it’s not able to shut down and sleep as easily. Try to keep your dinner under 500 calories so that it can be more fully digested by the time you call it a night.
If you’ve tried everything under the sun and moon but you still don’t get enough sleep, I suggest that you talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist.
Sleep Better Every Night of the Year
Daylight savings can really throw off your sleep schedule and affect how you feel for the following week, perhaps even longer. Instead of using sleeping pills, I suggest that you fight back with a handful of natural solutions with no side effects. Melatonin is a safe, easy, and effective way to fall asleep when your internal clock hasn’t yet adjusted to more or less daylight. Healthy eating and daily exercise also play a large role in how frequently you get quality sleep.
- Wescott, Elizabeth. “The Impact of Daylight Savings Times on the Circadian Clock.” Chronobiology. Published Nov. 3, 2017.
- “The Reason Daylight Savings Can Give You Jet Lag.” National Sleep Foundation. Last accessed Oct. 21, 2018.
- Babakhan, Jen. “16 Things Doctors Never Do During Daylight Savings Time.” Readers Digest. Last accessed Oct. 21, 2018.
Last Updated: November 1, 2018