Spring Ahead And Out Of Bed
Updated: Jul 8, 2022
A lot of people have trouble getting through the start of daylight saving time. For some, it can take up to a week to get their sleep schedule back on track.
In order for the time change to have as little effect as possible on your sleep, you need to first understand how your sleep cycle works.
Sleep and Wakefulness System
Your sleep is governed by a sleep system and wakefulness system. The sleep system is active for about 8 hours and the wakefulness system for about 16 hours. When you wake up in the morning, you become active, sunlight hits your eyes, and melatonin production ceases.
This is the beginning of your wakefulness system.
At night, the reverse happens. The sun goes down, you become less active, and melatonin production begins about 2 hours before your regular bedtime.
Part of the wakefulness system’s job is to build up the sleep neurotransmitter, adenosine. If you are not awake for at least those 16 hours, you cannot build up enough adenosine to go to sleep or sleep through the night.
How Sleeping In Disrupts Your Monday Morning
Let’s say you normally go to bed around 10 and get up at 6 during the week for work. Friday rolls around and you don’t want to go to bed at 10, so you stay up until midnight, then sleep in until 8 the next morning.
That means you’ve delayed the start of your wakefulness system by 2 hours, which results in a delay in the start of your sleep system that night. But it’s Saturday night, so no big deal, you can stay up later and sleep in on Sunday morning.
Then Sunday night rolls around and you think, “I gotta get up early tomorrow for work, I better go to bed early tonight.” So, you try to go to bed at 10. Except your body and brain are not ready for sleep. You haven’t been awake long enough to build up enough adenosine in the brain.
So, you toss and turn trying to go to sleep.
While you toss and turn, you begin to get frustrated and anxious because you have to get up early the next day. That frustration and anxiousness invokes the stress response and releases the stress hormone cortisol into your system.
Cortisol’s job is to prepare you for action – to fight or flee a situation. That means it increases your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. This makes it even harder for you to go to sleep.
Meanwhile, you’re stressing out about not getting enough sleep for work and likely start thinking that it’s work that’s keeping you awake. You might even start to dread work because you know you’re going to be tired or you might think you don’t want to go to work or start to dislike your job because you always hate Sunday night – Monday morning.
The truth is you are just disrupting your sleep cycle through the weekend. You don’t give your brain enough time to build up the drive for sleep on Sunday which means you’re not ready for sleep when you want to be.
This leads you to be anxious about not sleeping which releases cortisol which makes it even harder to go to sleep. None of this has anything to do with your job or Monday morning but with not sticking to a proper sleep schedule. When you sleep in on the weekends, it’s like giving yourself jet lag.
How to Get Through the Time Change
When we turn the clocks back, it’s like we traveled one time zone to the east, resulting in jet lag. Just like sleeping in, the changing of the clocks can have the same effect.
To get through it, you need to adjust your sleep cycle to match the new time a few days in advance. If you have a habit of sleeping in on the weekends, you need to be really diligent about not doing that this weekend to avoid an even worse night on Sunday.
To adjust your schedule you’re going to start getting up earlier and going to bed earlier by a half-hour per day starting on Thursday.
For example, let’s say you normally go to bed at 11 and get up at 7.
On Thursday morning you will get up at 6:30 and then go to bed that night at 10:30.
On Friday morning, you will get up at 6 and go to bed that night at 10.
On Saturday morning, you will get up at 6 and go to bed that night at 10.
Then Sunday morning, you will get up at 7 (the old 6) and go to bed that night at 11 which will allow you to get up Monday morning at your regular time of 7 am.
You can also use this process to help you prepare for any traveling you do heading east – where you lose time. Just add two more days to the beginning of the process for each extra hour you lose.
No matter if you are a good sleep or a poor sleeper, keeping to a regular sleep schedule is the best way to ensure you get consistent sleep every night. And with a little tweaking, you can manage a time change or jet lag with as little disruption as possible.
Get my free PDF, 12 Ways to Fall Asleep Faster Naturally to learn some strategies for going to sleep