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It’s just an hour! It’s more daylight! If you’ve been feeling disoriented, grumpy, and groggy since Daylight Savings Time kicked into gear on March 11, you may be wondering how such a small shift can have such an outsized effect on your state of mind and body. Are you imagining the change? Does that hour, particularly to an already sleep deprived new parent (or not-so-new parent), really make such a difference that it takes you a week or more to feel whole again? Let’s figure it out.
First, what is Daylight Savings? This is when we switch, for the spring and summer months, to a clock setting in which the daylight hours are shifted forward. Think of it as grabbing an hour of daylight from the early morning, and tacking it onto the end of the day instead, where it’s presumably more useful and enjoyable.
That’s the theory, anyway.
But for some reason, “losing” an hour of sleep (which effectively is what often happens, depending on your normal sleep-wake patterns) is harder on your body then “gaining” 60 minutes in the fall, when we “drop back” to standard time. How can that be, given that there’s the same number of hours in a day? It’s sort of like traveling east by plane, a harder transition on your sleep patterns than heading west.
When it stays lighter, later, many people have a harder time settling down to sleep, or are restless. The clear solution is to go to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier, but who can really manage that—especially if you have a baby who hasn’t figured out sleep yet at all, or a toddler raring to go at all hours regardless of what the clock says? And thus, at least for the short term as you adjust to the difference, you feel it, in the same way you might feel jet lag.
Experts say that even that little bit of extra sleeplessness at night or sleepiness during the day can take its toll on you. Here’s how:
What to do about it?
The best expert advice is to give yourself a time-change jumpstart by going to bed a bit earlier and waking a bit earlier in the days leading up to the change. That’s no longer practical—the clock deed is done, and even if you’d had a heads-up about this practical advice, not a lot of new parents can manage that feat. That said, you can still help your body adjust and avoid some of the negative effects of this jet-lag-like time: