In the wee hours of the second Sunday of March, Americans once again moved their clocks forward an hour to daylight saving time. There’s been a lot of recent debate about whether or not the effort to align our waking hours to enjoy more sunlight in the evenings during the summer is worth the turmoil it inevitably seems to create twice a year. However, proposals to change the practice are not so simple to enact, which means we’re likely going to be “springing forward” and “falling back” for the foreseeable future.

While it may seem like losing one hour of sleep on one night in the spring shouldn’t be such a big deal, the body’s circadian rhythms take time to adapt to a new sleep pattern. This can leave you feeling groggy for days on end following the time change. If you find yourself struggling to stay alert during the days following the switch to daylight saving time, here are four tips to help your body reset to your new schedule:

  1. Be mindful of your light exposure: Bright light signals to your body when you need to be awake, so make sure you’re sending your body the right signals. Exposing yourself to bright light when you wake up will help you reset your timing to the new normal. If the time change doesn’t yet mean lots of sunlight in the morning in your area, artificial light will do the trick.
  2. Be active early: Exercise in the morning to get your adrenaline going and help you get through the day. Exercise in late afternoon or early evening can rev you up just when you should be trying to wind down, so schedule relaxing activities for the hours between dinner and bedtime to get you in the right frame of body and mind to slumber.
  3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol too close to bed: It’s tempting to down a cup of coffee when you’ve hit that midafternoon slump, but you should try to resist the urge. Caffeine and other stimulants make it harder to get to sleep, so at least for the first week after the time change, be especially conscientious about your intake. Alcohol, on the other hand, may make it seem easier to get to sleep, but it impairs the quality of sleep you achieve. Skip the glass of wine before bedtime and you’ll feel better rested in the morning.
  4. Turn off electronics in the evening: This is something we should all be conscious of year-round, but it’s especially important right after we’ve lost an hour in springtime. The blue light from electronics such as smartphones and tablets interferes with the body’s natural processes for helping us drift off to sleep, so late-night exposure can sabotage every other effort we make to get on a new schedule. Put the electronics away a couple of hours before bedtime to help hasten your adjustment.

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