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When you have to wake up earlier than usual, it's tough. And, come March 13, you'll feel like you're getting up even earlier when our clocks spring forward for the start of Daylight Saving Time.

The good news about Daylight Saving Time is that it's a sign the days are getting longer and filled with more sunlight. However, you will likely feel the effect of one less hour of sleep for a few days until you get adjusted.

"When we change our clocks, it causes your internal clock to get out of sync or mismatched with the day-night cycle you've been in before the change," said Michael C. Marino, DO, medical director of Geisinger Sleep Labs.

Although the clock says you're going to bed and waking up at the same time you were before, your body feels like it's going to bed earlier and waking up earlier - that can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. And waking up is tough too - not only are you waking up at what feels like an earlier time, but it's still dark out.

"Light is an important component in falling asleep and waking up. Light exposure has a direct effect on setting your circadian rhythm," Dr. Marino said. "Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy at higher concentrations. Exposure to light helps suppress this production: conversely being in a dark or low light environment increases the production of melatonin by the pineal gland."

This all means your body will take a few days to readjust to the new sleep and wake times. But you don't have to wait until March 13 and then suffer with daytime fatigue. Here's what you can do to wake up feeling refreshed at the beginning of Daylight Saving Time.

1. Transition into the time change gradually

Instead of waiting until the clocks change to adjust your body's rhythm, gradually transitioning a few days before can minimize the impact.

"Try going to be bed 15 minutes early a few days before the clocks change and gradually increase how much earlier you go to bed," Dr. Marino said. "It's also important to head into Daylight Saving Time well rested - if you're only getting six hours of sleep and feeling sleep deprived, the change is going to be more difficult for you."

2. See the light

As previously mentioned, light plays a big role in your ability to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

"Since light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, it's important to make sure you expose yourself to as much light as possible during your waking hours," Dr. Marino said. "Similarly, avoiding bright light when it's dark out and close to your bedtime will help you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep."

3. Exercise during the day

Exercise is not just to improve your health and overall fitness, but it also impacts the quality of your sleep.

"Getting even moderate exercise each day can help you sleep better at night," Dr. Marino said. However, exercising too close to your bedtime can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.

4. Practice good sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is all about creating an ideal sleep-friendly environment to improve your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep and sleeping soundly.

"The key elements of sleep hygiene are going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, practicing calming rituals to relax yourself before bed, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol," Dr. Marino said.

Good sleep hygiene sets you up to fall and stay asleep as well as training your body to know when you're planning to go to bed and wake up, affecting your melatonin production.
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