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Community & Culture

Leverage Daylight Saving to “Fall Back” on Sleep Hygiene

Twice a year, we adjust our clocks around 2:00 a.m. – once on the second Sunday in March when the clocks “spring forward” an hour, and again on the very first Sunday in November when they “fall back” an hour. It’s almost time for our clocks to “fall back” again, which means we will finally repossess that wonderful extra hour of sleep. But beware – although we get an extra hour, and it may seem like this can only help our sleep, there are a few ways that extra hour could actually do more harm than good. The time change occurs in the middle of the night (though you may still be out trick-or-treating this year), which means our sleep cycles are disturbed. From here on out the sun will set earlier, so it will rise earlier too, and light exposure has been proven to speed up wake time.

However, that first Sunday in November also provides a unique opportunity to test your sleep hygiene and figure out, once and for all, whether or not you’re getting enough sleep. No doctor, fitness tracker or fancy sleep machine is needed for this simple test; all you need is a standard alarm clock. Keep in mind, your smartphone may set itself automatically at 2:00 a.m. on November 1, so it’s imperative that you use a standard, manual alarm clock for this assessment to work. A recent study explains in detail how to conduct this assessment on your own, but here are a few pointers:

  1. First and foremost, before you do anything, do not alter your current sleep schedule. Just because you technically “gain an hour” of sleep doesn’t mean you should stay up later.
  2. Before your regular bedtime on the evening of November 1, set the time on the alarm clock back an hour and schedule your alarm for your regular wake-up time.
  3. In the morning, if you sleep an extra hour past the usual wake time (in other words you don’t wake up until the alarm sounds), you’re probably not getting enough sleep. If that’s the case, re-assess your sleep schedule and consider pushing your sleep routine up an hour or two. If you wake up about an hour before your alarm goes off, that means your sleep schedule allows for an efficient period of sleep. It’s that simple.

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2015 Sleep in America Poll, Americans who claimed to be very or extremely motivated to get enough sleep reported sleeping 36 more minutes per night across the week in comparison to those who lacked similar motivation or any motivation at all. Use this first Sunday in November (which is this weekend!) to assess your sleep hygiene and get motivated to get Zzzz! It’s a chance for you to find out once and for all if you’re getting enough sleep; after all, the proof is in the pillow!

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