The change of the seasons means another major transition is coming: The clocks will change for the end of daylight saving time at 2 a.m. on Nov. 1, giving us an extra hour in our day.
It's a more welcome change than the beginning of daylight saving time, which took place in March this year — then, we lose an hour of sleep. However, that extra hour might see you rising earlier or otherwise changing your sleep schedule.
TODAY Health spoke to sleep experts to get all the details on how the time change affects our schedule and what steps you can take in advance to avoid altering your routine too much.
Why do we get an extra hour of sleep?
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The real reason we change the clocks back is to get some extra light: As winter approaches, it gets darker earlier, which can throw off the circadian rhythms that moderate our sleep and are affected by light.
"That extra light in the morning is a benefit and one of the main reasons why we have daylight saving time in the fall," Eleanor McGlinchey, a professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, explained. "...I think for most people, we would prefer to sleep in a little bit more so this is the one that actually allows you to do that a little bit."
How does the time change affect our sleep?
Gaining an extra hour of sleep does affect us a bit, according to Courtney Bancroft, a clinical psychologist and sleep specialist based in New York City, but in general, the fall time change is much easier than the spring time change, where we lose an hour of sleep.
"There are many studies that show heart attacks and car accidents actually decrease by a significant percentage because of the extra hour of sleep that we gain when we shift the clocks back," Bancroft said. "Likewise, there is a significant shift in the increase in heart attacks when we lose an hour of sleep in the spring forward time change."
The biggest change in most sleep schedules is that you might find yourself naturally waking earlier, which Bancroft said can actually be helpful.
"If you think about the effects of alarm clocks, they can be really jarring to the system," she said. "They can kind of cause surprise and the fight or flight system may jump in ... But if we're waking up naturally because of light coming in or because we've already reached our time limit for sleep, that can actually have a really gentle effect on the body."
What's the best way to adjust to the change?
While gaining an hour of sleep is easier on your body and easier to adjust to than losing an hour of sleep in the spring, Bancroft provided three different plans you can follow if you want to make the switch even easier.
Option 1: Four days before the time change
With this four-day plan, you'll shift your bedtimes and wake times by 15 minutes each day.
If your original bed time is 11 p.m. and your wake time is 7 a.m., go to bed at 11:15 p.m. four days before the time change, and plan to wake at 7:15 a.m. Three days before, go to bed at 11:30 and wake at 7:30; two days before, sleep at 11:45 and wake at 7:45.
On Oct. 31, go to bed at midnight. The time change occurs overnight, so you'll wake at 7 a.m. having gotten your full eight hours of sleep. After Nov. 1, go back to your normal bedtime of 11 p.m. to wake for 7 a.m.
Option 2: Two days before
This two-day plan is simple but effective. If you typically go to bed at 11 p.m. and your wake time is usually 7 a.m., try staying up until 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, and sleep in until 7:00 a.m. on Nov. 1. This actually gives your body an extra half hour of sleep, which Bancroft says will help you "adjust more quickly, less drastically."
Going forward, go back to your normal sleep schedule.
Option 3: The night before
This plan is great for early risers: Go to bed on Oct. 31 at 11 p.m. and wake at 6 a.m. instead of your regular 7 a.m. time.
"For many, you may find that you're naturally waking up earlier the morning after the time change for fall because of the light," Bancroft said. "If you find yourself naturally waking up, get out of bed for the day. This will help your sleep drive shift to become 'hungrier' for sleep earlier that evening."
Remember, the time change lasts all day, so if you're used to going to sleep at 11 p.m., you may start feeling tired closer to 10 p.m.. By waking up at 6 a.m., you'll get the same amount of hours of time awake as you would have before the change. Go to bed around 10 p.m. and wake at 7 a.m. the next morning to get back on schedule.
Tips to adjust after the time change
McGlinchey said that it's also important to make sure you don't throw yourself off schedule in the days and weeks after the time change. Keep an eye on meal times, the amount of time you spend awake in bed and do what you can to wake naturally instead of using an alarm clock.
"Eating too early or eating too late can have an impact on your circadian rhythms," she said. "...Try keep technology out of your bed, make sure you're not just hanging out in bed, because that can mess up your sleep and wake schedules."
"As best as you can, try noticing when you naturally wake up and see if you can start to take advantage of that," McGlinchey continued. "Say 'OK, if this is when I naturally wake up, when should I go to sleep?' Try to stay consistent as best you can."
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