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7 Tips for Surviving the Fall Daylight Saving Time Change

Daylight saving time ends on Sunday, Nov. 5. Here’s how to ease into the transition and adjust to darker days

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Most Americans look forward to gaining the extra hour that comes with the end of daylight saving time (DST) — happening this Sunday, Nov. 5.

But many scientists believe any disruption in our circadian rhythms — our body’s wake and sleep cycles — can have a negative effect on our health.

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The fall time change “isn’t associated with the same impact or level of disruption as the spring change, but it can still affect you,” says Michelle Drerup, M.D., a sleep specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Even if you try to use the extra hour to catch up on sleep, studies show you’re still likely to experience a net loss of sleep in the days after the change because you’ll wake up earlier, have more trouble falling asleep or wake up more often during the night.

In addition, the shorter days and early onset of darkness can leave you feeling moody, lethargic and irritable. One study found an 11 percent increase in depression episodes in the week following the November change.

A few studies have also noted a higher risk of stroke and heart attack in the week following the transition.

Here are a few ways to ease into the time change and combat the potentially harmful effects of the end of daylight saving time.

1. Set your clock back on Saturday night

The people who tend to have the most difficulty with the fall time change are early birds — those who already go to bed early and wake up early, Drerup says.

They often find themselves wide awake an hour earlier than normal.

To help ease the transition, Drerup recommends changing your clock on Saturday night and pushing your bedtime back, rather than going to bed at your regular time.

If it’s difficult to stay awake, try doing something active, such as taking an evening stroll, rather than sitting on the couch and watching television, Drerup suggests.


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2. Gradually adjust your bedtime

To make the transition less abrupt for your body, try to go to bed 15 to 20 minutes later each day for a few days leading up to the clock rollback, suggests Rachel Ziegler, a sleep-medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic Health System.

Adds Shalini Paruthi, a board-certified sleep-medicine specialist and codirector of the St. Luke’s Sleep Medicine and Research Center in St. Louis: “You should also begin to adjust the timing of other daily routines that are ‘time cues’ for your body, like meals and exercise.”

3. Get outside

Many Americans, especially those who work in an office all day, spend little time in daylight after the fall time change because of the earlier sunset. “They may be leaving work when it’s dark, going to work when it’s dark — so they’re getting no light exposure,” Drerup says.

Sunlight tells our circadian rhythms when we’re supposed to be tired and when we’re supposed to be awake, Ziegler says. So try getting some exposure first thing in the morning.

“Sunlight helps reset your internal clock,” she says.

Light exposure has also been shown to improve the quality of your sleep and boost your mood. If you can’t go outside, get to a window or try a light therapy box.

4. Maintain good sleep hygiene

Try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day, and avoid any extra dozing before bedtime.

Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Limit your use of both alcohol and electronic devices before bed, and adopt a calming bedtime routine.

Sunlight helps reset your internal clock.

—Rachel Ziegler, Mayo Clinic

“A good bedtime routine includes doing the exact same activities in the exact same order every night,” Paruthi advises. “Most successful bedtime routines are 15 to 30 minutes long. They help transition the brain from a go-go-go mindset to a more calm one, so you can relax and get some sleep.”

5. Get moving

Make the most of the light in the morning and use that extra hour for a morning workout, Ziegler suggests.

If you can’t exercise in the morning, it’s still a good idea to incorporate some activity into your day.

“Exercise has been shown in studies to improve sleep quality,” Paruthi explains. “It’s recommended that we get at least 150 minutes of movement or exercise per week, which could be as simple as walking 30 minutes, five days a week.”

6. Block out light

If sunrise wakes you up too early after the clock change, install some blackout curtains. Even easier: don a sleep mask.

Your eyelids alone can’t block out all of the light, research shows. In fact, the latest research shows that sleeping in total darkness could do more than just help your sleep; it may also boost your cardiovascular and cognitive health.

7. Try not to stress

Drerup urges people to try not to worry too much about the time change.

“Worrying about it actually just makes it worse for a lot of people,” she says. “You may feel a little off for a couple of days, but most people who don’t have chronic insomnia or a sleep disorder do pretty well.” 

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Editor's note: This story, originally published March 12, 2021, has been updated to include additional reporting from Michelle Crouch.

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