The science behind changing the clocks and why it drives us bonkers

Daylight Saving Time is upon us again, but changing the clocks doesn't have to be a stressful process

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

We hate to break the news, but it's time to change the clocks. (Cue the sighs.) 

Daylight Saving Time is creeping up on us, and though it only adjusts our schedule by one hour—one hour!—it's enough to send us into a tailspin. Our perfect sleep environment gets disrupted and we feel out of whack for days. But why is such a seemingly insignificant change so torturous? 

If you ask Dr. Richard E. Cytowic, (opens in new tab) a professor of neurology at George Washington University, it is far from insignificant. The circadian clock in our brain, which follows a 24-hour rhythm that coincides with Earth's rotation, is thrown off. As a result, there's a discrepancy between our biological clock and the social clock. This is an issue, considering the circadian clock in our brain is responsible for keeping our entire body in check.

All in all, whether we gain or lose an hour, we're likely going to feel somewhat affected by the shift for a few days. Don't stress, though—it's totally normal, and there are step to take to ensure that you're not ready to hit the hay at 3pm. 



Changing the clocks: survival tips

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (opens in new tab) notes that there are ways to overcome any feelings of laziness or sluggishness. It'll take a bit of prep, but you'll thank yourself in the long run.

1. Get a full seven hours of sleep

In order to ensure that you're not thrown off kilter too much, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine strongly recommends getting a full seven hours of sleep several days before and after Daylight Saving Time in order to keep your schedule consistent. Sleep smells, including lavender, and the best sleep masks will help make your journey to Neverland as smooth as possible. 

2. Adjust your sleep and wake times accordingly

Though it's important to catch those seven hours, your start and end time might be a bit skewed during Daylight Saving Time. If you have to wake up an hour earlier or later, make sure to start two to three days before DST so that you're prepared once the change sets in. 

3. Take a nap

Make it a power nap, though. Shutting your eyes 15 to 20 minutes in the afternoon on the Sunday after the change can get you back on track, according to the Mayo Clinic (opens in new tab). Just make sure you're not doing this too close to your actual bedtime. 

4. Get some sun 

The Sunday after DST, it's important to get some natural sunlight, so soak up a bit of Vitamin D while you're en route to brunch. 

Best of luck this Daylight Saving Time, friends!

Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment. 


The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos and honed in on astrology coverage within the Life vertical. She's partial to writing pieces about the next big TV obsession—anyone else impatiently waiting for "Conversations with Friends"—and keeping you up to date on new trends like the latest must-have from Zara. 


Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets. 


When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a new book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)