Start shifting bedtime tonight to save yourself an early wake-up on Sunday
Sleep expert recommends going to bed a few minutes later each evening leading up to clocks falling back
You might be banking on getting an extra hour of sleep when the clocks roll backward at 2 a.m. Sunday, but your kids — or your own schedule — might have other plans.
"It's a great thing if you get an extra hour of sleep, in my books — but it doesn't always happen," Hilary Cole told The St. John's Morning Show.
Many of us will trick ourselves into thinking we'll get a bonus hour of sleep when we go to bed on Sunday but end up staying up later on Saturday night because we feel like we can use that time to get things done, said Cole, a pediatric sleep consultant living in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's.
The problem often becomes amplified if you have children, she said, because they're ruled by their internal body clock — which might tell them it's time to wake up at 5 a.m. on Sunday.
You might think the lost sleep is not too significant, but even an hour of sleep missed affects us, Cole said. If you usually sleep for eight hours but only get seven on the night the time changes, whether it's because your child woke up earlier or you went to bed later, then you've gotten 12.5 per cent less sleep than usual.
Research shows that's enough to have serious consequences. In the days after the time changes — more significantly in the spring, but also in the fall — research shows that traffic accidents increase.
"Sleep affects our alertness, our concentration, our cognitive functioning, and even an hour of sleep loss can make a difference in your day," Cole said.
Start planning now
Fortunately, there are things that can be done to mitigate that sleep loss — starting tonight.
If you have children with a consistent bedtime, Cole recommended putting them to bed 10 or 15 minutes later than usual, starting this evening. By the time the time changes happens, that hour of sleep will mostly be made up for, she said.
"If you wait until Saturday or Sunday, you're going to be getting up with your child a lot earlier than you need to on Monday morning," she said.
Adults are less likely to have a consistent bedtime, she said, but this trick works on them just the same to shift that internal clock a little.
And all year-round, Cole said, having healthy sleep hygiene and encouraging it in your children can help the entire family sleep well.
Kids often have a bedtime routine — bath, brush teeth, read a story — that helps them mentally prepare for sleep.
"Those are all cues that help them know what's coming next, and kids always want to know what's coming next," Cole said.
Adults can also set up a healthy sleep routine for themselves that lets their bodies know to get ready to sleep. For example, good adult sleep hygiene might include meditating or avoiding screens for an hour before bedtime.
As a bonus, displaying these healthy habits yourself makes them more likely to stick in your children. After all, Cole said, children pick up what the adults around them model — sleep hygiene included.