How the End of Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Sleep

To prepare for the end of daylight saving time, we asked experts for their best tips.

Image of autumn light and shadows across an entryway table with a clock on the wall showing an earlier dusk due to the end of daylight saving time.
Photo by Ann Nekr from Pexels

Quick facts about the end of daylight saving time:

  • Daylight saving time ends the first Sunday of November, at 2a.m. This year, clocks will “fall back” an hour on November 7th.  
  • After DST ends, you may feel sleepy earlier at night. You should stick to your original bedtime, even if you wake up earlier.  
  • To prepare for the end of DST, you can shift your bedtime 10 minutes later, every night for six days. For kids and pets, you should set an earlier bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes a week before DST ends.  
  • Other tips to aid your circadian rhythm with the change include good sleep hygiene, timing your meals, and exercising in the morning.  

For many, the fall season signals a time for cozy activities like apple-picking, pumpkin spiced lattes, and wearing your favorite flannel shirt. But it’s also the season when our body and sleep patterns get thrown off with the end of daylight saving time (DST), or “fall back” as clocks go back an hour in the middle of the night.

How does daylight saving time work in the fall?

The original reason behind DST is to help save energy as people use less electricity, and to make better use of daylight. However research shows modern electricity isn’t affected much, and a recent poll by the American Academy of Sleep shows that people prefer eliminating time changes. But even though the people have spoken, DST is still very much in effect.

This year, daylight saving time ends on Sunday, November 7, at 2 a.m. (It will be back March 13, 2022, but we’ll worry about spring forward later.) The end of DST means that at 2 a.m., our clocks “fall back” one hour to 1 a.m., and we regain that hour of sleep. This also means that when Monday night rolls around, it’ll be natural for you to feel sleepy early.

So if your normal sleep time during DST is 10 p.m., you might find yourself nodding off at 9 p.m. after fall-back occurs. But, according to Dr. W. Chris Winter, sleep neurologist and advisor to Sleep.com, what’s important is to make sure you still go to sleep at 10 p.m.

“For most people, this is the easier transition to make,” he adds. “This will have the effect of making us all essentially stay up an extra hour.” He also emphasizes that we can expect to wake up early for a day or two, which may make you want to sleep earlier, but that it’s important to stay the course with keeping your bedtime the same as before. (This trick might not work with kids and pets, but keep reading for Winter’s advice on how to ease the fall-back transition.)

If you aren’t able to prepare for the end of DST, this is the takeaway tip: Stay up to keep your bedtime — your wake time will eventually fall into place.

What changes might we feel at end of DST?

Adjusting your sleep schedule for a few days may increase your risk for sleepiness, mood swings, and stroke. Risk of stroke also increases by 8% after a DST transition for the first two days. Although not addressing your loss sleep could have months long effect on your body, according to research. That's why experts advocate planning ahead, even with slight changes to your sleep schedule, to help your circadian rhythm resync.

Sleepy mother looking at the laptop while her kids are up early due to the end of daylight saving time
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

But everyone experiences DST differently. According to sleep psychologist Megan Rhoads, PsyD, those most vulnerable to DST effects will already suffer from a sleep disorder (insomnia, sleep apnea) or have psychiatric disorders that tend to alter our natural sleep cycle like Seasonal Affective Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, and Bipolar I and II.

Location may have a factor too. Northern states like Alaska and Washington, Winter notes, will get less light during the winter, exacerbating the transition. Knowing how light affects your state could also help make sense of why your DST experience seems easier or more difficult than others.

States according to sunlight received:

Most light Least light 
ArizonaWashington
New MexicoVermont
NevadaAlaska
TexasNew York
CaliforniaOregon
ColoradoWest Virginia
OklahomaMichigan
KansasOhio
UtahMontana
FloriaConnecticut

What is the number one way to prepare for DST changes?

Reading this before fall back happens? The best way to prepare for this change in the schedule, according to Rhoades, is to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep the week before. “It’s surprising to some, but good sleep hygiene doesn’t happen overnight. You have to gradually train your body to relax and sleep well.”

Winter agrees. He notes that the biggest mistake people make in the fall is not getting up on time. “When daylight saving time ends in the fall, if you do no prep and go to bed at your typical time, you’ll get one hour less sleep that first night.”

If you’re concerned about the impact on your mental health, Winter recommends slowly preparing by going to bed 10 minutes later every night for the six days prior to DST. Planning ahead can help alleviate end of DST-related stress and anxiety.

9 sleep hygiene tips to help you through the end of DST

Environmental add-ons

  • Day lamps: The first few days, you might feel tired early, says Winter. Afternoon and evening exposure to a bright light could help you feel more awake and make it to your bedtime (this can be especially beneficial for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder). 
  • Prepare your bedroom: Shut off all your devices 2 hours before bedtime and make sure your room is a little at the optimal temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Nutrition, exercise, and meditation to-dos

  • Exercise: Experts agree that keeping a consistent exercise routine is one of your best aids in adapting to DST. Light morning activities, such as a brisk walk or doing gentle cardio during the day, is key for keeping your circadian rhythm on the right track. 
  • Food: “Nutrition changes help reduce the body’s inflammation,” Rhoades explains. She recommends eating a light dinner no later than 1 hour before bedtime and avoiding alcohol and caffeine to ensure you’re able to go to sleep and stay asleep. 
  • Secure the way you wind down: With nightfall coming sooner, it’s even more important than ever to ditch the screens. Opt instead for a soothing activity like taking a hot bath, reading a dull book, or listening to a bedtime story for adults.  

Tips for helping kids and pets cope

For parents of children and pets, the end of DST doesn’t always translate to sleeping in. In fact, you may end up losing out on the extra hour as children and pets normally stick to their internal clock schedules.

Little girl reading a book in the morning while her parents are asleep
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

To regain your hour of sleep, and cause minimal disruption to your babies’ routine, try to:

  • Work physical activity into household games: Playing a variety of games like tag indoors can be a great way for kids to let their energy out and help them unwind for the day. But make sure activities end at least 90 minutes before bedtime. 
  • Slowly move bedtime: Early risers may have a hard time adjusting to the new time change. Fortunately, you can prepare the week before DST by moving your child’s bedtime 15 to 30 minutes later. 
  • Adjust your pet’s schedule: Pets can also struggle with adapting to this transition as they experience a change to their walks or feedings. Like the above advice, moving their evening outings by 15 minutes each day the week before can help them cope better. 
  • Schedule a morning activity for independent kids: A book or craft project for older kids may help keep them occupied for the extra hour you need to snooze.  

Use daylight saving time as a reminder to reinforce sleep hygiene

Adapting to the end of DST doesn’t have to ruin your fall plans. Our internal clock works in sync with the outside light-dark cycle of the sun, so changing your body’s rhythm won’t happen in one night. That said, even a few small tweaks to your routine can help set up your natural circadian rhythm for a restful and restorative sleep.

Make sure you prepare a week ahead by getting rid of sleep disruptors like a bright screen or an overly warm room. If you operate on deadlines, a week before DST ends is a great time to avoid foods and drinks at night, at least an hour before bedtime. Aiming for good sleep hygiene — and gradually going to bed earlier each day until the actual time change — can make the adjustment feel much smoother.