5 hacks to survive daylight savings time this fall (plus 3 bonus tips for kids)
Posted by American Homes 4 Rent Team
9m read time
Nov 2, 2021
The end of daylight savings time in 2021 is scheduled for Sunday, November 7. That means we’ll set the clocks back one hour once it hits 2:00 a.m. that Sunday morning (or Saturday night for those who stay up late).
While you might initially rejoice at getting an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning, the time switch can actually have a huge effect on your body and mental health. Fall daylight savings marks the start of early sunsets that can upset your sleep schedule and cause your family to be overtired for work and school on Monday morning.
Find out why the end of daylight savings impacts your health and how to prepare yourself and your family for a healthy transition into the winter months.
How daylight savings time impacts your health
Altering your sleep schedule can be more impactful than just feeling tired. There are actually several health effects that may occur due to the time change.
Decreased levels of Vitamin D
As the days get shorter, spending more time indoors during the day at either work or school limits exposure to natural sunlight. The end of daylight savings bumps up sunset an hour earlier so that many people hardly see the sun shine at all on most days. It’s problematic because our bodies need sunlight in order to naturally produce Vitamin D.
This nutrient is important in a number of ways, including:
- Strengthening bones by increasing calcium absorption
- Supporting immune health
- Increasing muscle function
- Supporting brain cell activity
If you notice a considerable decrease in your outdoor time, especially during daylight hours, consider talking to your healthcare provider about taking a Vitamin D supplement. They can help you determine the appropriate dosage based on your individual health profile.
Decreased melatonin and serotonin
Sunlight also helps the body produce two hormones: melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin brings on sleep, while serotonin serves as a mood balancer. It’s clear that shorter days caused by fall daylight savings is likely to impact both sleep and mood.
Morning sunlight is a trigger to your body that it should stop producing melatonin. When people get up early and head to work or school before the sun rises, their bodies may receive the wrong signals and not make the switch from melatonin to serotonin. That’s why it’s common to feel groggy when you’re not able to wake with the sun — your body is missing a key trigger in regulating daily hormones.
Increase in seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (aptly nicknamed “SAD”) may occur when people don’t get as much sunlight. It can cause depression, feelings of lethargy, lack of focus, changes in appetite, interrupted sleep and more.
For most people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, symptoms usually start in the fall — right around daylight savings time. It continues throughout winter and eventually fades away as the days begin to lengthen in early spring.
One of the major triggers for SAD is the change in our biological clocks. This is also called a circadian rhythm. It’s the internal 24-hour cycle that triggers certain biological processes, like getting sleepy when it’s dark outside. So it makes sense that disrupting the biological clock can lead to changes in physical and mental health.
How can you handle the symptoms involved with seasonal affective disorder? Start by talking to your doctor. There are a number of treatments available depending on the type of symptoms you experience and their severity. Light therapy and a daily mindfulness practice could help. And a doctor may also recommend any medications or therapy that might be beneficial as well.
5 Hacks for adults adjusting to fall daylight savings
It’s impossible to avoid the time changes that come with the end of daylight savings in November. But it is possible to help ease the transition by finding ways to support your sleep and energy levels. Here are five tips to help you cope with the shorter days.
1. Keep your normal sleep schedule
It can be tempting to sleep in an extra hour or two on the first Sunday after daylight savings, and maybe even stay up later the night before. But life carries on based on the clock, not our internal cycles.
In reality, staying up an extra hour will probably make you more tired. Your biological clock will likely still make you wake up at your normal time on Sunday morning, so you would actually lose an hour of sleep.
When it comes time to go to bed Sunday night, you might not feel ready just yet. But you’ll simply cause a chain reaction of less sleep if you go to bed later than usual. It’s important to stick to your normal routine so that your body readjusts as quickly as possible. Challenge yourself to hit the hay at your usual time, even if you end up lying awake for a while. Your body will begin to readjust in a few days.
2. Soak in the morning sunlight
We know that a lack of sunlight is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to adjusting to a new fall schedule. Not only are the days shorter, the end of daylight savings then shifts everything an hour earlier. That means most people are at work or school during those key hours of light. By the time those responsibilities wrap up in the late afternoon or early evening, the sun has already dipped below the horizon.
Your body depends on sunlight to naturally produce Vitamin D, melatonin and serotonin. And just 15 minutes can help your body create everything it needs for the day. Make an extra effort to get outside in the morning or early afternoon, even if it’s just during a lunch break. You’re likely to feel a real boost in your mood, and your body will be better prepared for both sleep and immunity.
3. Fit in a workout
Everyone knows that exercise is good for your health, but it’s even more important when daylight savings ends — and for several reasons.
You get outside in the sunshine. A walk or jog in the sunlight kills two birds with one stone. You’re working out but you’re also helping your body produce those important nutrients and hormones.
You tire out your body for a good night’s sleep. Instead of staying up later to adjust for the time shift, exercise can help wear out your body so that you’re ready for bed, even if it feels like an hour earlier than usual.
You increase your hormone production. Exercise has been proven to increase production of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. All of these hormones can help improve your mood. Working out also balances adrenaline levels, which can help curb anxiety.
If you don’t already have a workout routine in place, start small. Commit to heading outside for a walk a few times a week to get into the habit. Find pockets in your schedule where you can get outside during the morning, especially on your days off.
4. Shift your approach to dinner
Your body might only seem to crave carbs as it gets darker earlier, but make sure you’re eating the foods you really need to support better health during fall and winter.
Instead of carb-heavy dinners, increase the amount of protein instead. This gives you extra energy and makes you feel fuller. Also consider including fatty fish into your dinner rotation, like tuna or salmon. They’re high in omega-3s, which are shown to improve mood and reduce inflammation.
Incorporate dinner foods that are high in tryptophan as well. This is an amino acid that improves sleep and reduces wakefulness. Here are some foods that have high levels of tryptophan:
- Milk and cheese
- Seeds and nuts
Just a few small changes at the dinner table can set you up for a much more restful night in the fall and winter months.
5. Create a relaxing bedtime routine
A well-crafted bedtime routine signals your body that it’s time to start winding down and produce melatonin for a good night’s sleep. There are several things you can do that not only prepare you for a better rest, but can also improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
Swap out late night caffeine. Drinking a caffeinated soda or coffee in the evening can trigger your body to stay up much later than you should. Instead, make yourself a cup of herbal tea, warm milk or even a hot toddy — just don’t use too much alcohol. Even though alcohol can cause short-term sleepiness, it actually lowers the quality of sleep throughout the entire night.
Stop screen time early. Devices like phones, laptops and tablets emit blue light, which is proven to disrupt melatonin production. Switch to “nighttime mode” in the evening, then put away the device entirely at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Try another relaxing activity instead, like reading a book or writing in a journal.
Set phone reminders. A relaxing bedtime routine shouldn’t stress you out by adding more things to your to-do list. Make it easy on yourself by setting phone reminders for making a warm drink. You can also give yourself a last call to check your phone or watch a show on Netflix. Once you finish the things you’re used to doing, you’re ready to start winding down and getting to bed on time.
3 Bonus tips for helping kids cope with daylight savings time
The end of daylight savings time can impact kids just as much as adults, and even more so since they don’t always have the self-awareness to know why they’re feeling off. Here are some tips to help make the transition easier.
1. Incrementally adjust their bedtime in advance
If your kids are used to going to bed at 8:30, their bodies are unlikely to feel ready when the time arrives on Sunday night. Instead, they’ll probably feel like it’s only 7:30. Start preparing them a few days before the switch by getting them to bed a few minutes earlier each night. Making small changes in 10 or 15 minute increments can be much more effective than mandating them to go to bed a full hour earlier than their bodies are used to. Thankfully, earlier sunsets can help them adjust, since it should still be dark outside.
2. Plan a high-energy activity the day before the end of daylight savings
Another way to prepare your kids is to have an adventure that tires them out on the Saturday before daylight savings time ends. Go for a hike, swim at an indoor pool or spend a long afternoon at the playground. Tack on a few outdoor chores as well, like raking leaves. They’ll wear themselves out and be ready to crash in no time.
3. Create a cozy sleep environment
As you get your kids ready for bed in the fall and winter, take a few simple steps to create a cozy sleep routine. Set screen time limits so that they’re off their devices at least an hour before bedtime. Also start dimming the lights to encourage melatonin production. When they’re all tucked in, consider turning on a white noise machine. It’s helpful in drowning out noises, especially if you’re still awake and doing things around the house.
Fall daylight savings time can cause real disruptions in mood, health and energy levels. Don’t underestimate the impact it can have on you and your family. Set a few new routines in place, like getting to bed on time and enjoying some morning sunshine with a brisk walk. A few minor changes can make everyone feel better as you start to settle in for the coming winter months.
Note: This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider or licensed physician before beginning an exercise program or nutritional regimen.
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