Get Some Sleep: Fall back tips
November 1st, 2011
12:53 PM ET

Get Some Sleep: Fall back tips

Lisa Shives, M.D., is the founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. She blogs regularly on The Chart. Read more from her at Dr. Lisa Shives’ Sleep Better Blog.

The autumn equinox has come and gone, but many of us here in the Midwest have continued to fool ourselves that it is really just late summer.

But the game is over once we turn the clocks back and we start driving home from work in the dark. The clock change that is mandated by the end of daylight saving time is really the marker for many people that a change in seasons has happened.

For people who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the change in autumn means more hours of darkness and colder weather, which keeps many people indoors. As a result, many feel more depressed and have more sleep disturbance as well as daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

The actual change in the clock, which will occur at 2 a.m. Sunday, is a circadian shift - in the body's natural 24-hour rhythm - that is better tolerated than the clock change in the spring, especially if you follow a few simple recommendations.

The change in the fall is easier to deal with than the one in the spring because, in the fall, on the Sunday night after the clock change, your body feels that it is one hour later than what the clock reads. So if you normally feel sleepy at 11 p.m., you will feel sleepy at 10 p.m.

What to do? You can go ahead and go to bed. Let’s face it, most of us are sleep-deprived anyway because of scheduling too little time to sleep, so get that extra hour of sleep. Or you can force yourself to stay up until your usual bedtime.

For most of us, it is relatively easy to stay up a bit later than we are used to, while it is almost impossible for most people to lie down and go to sleep if they are not sleepy. That is why the spring clock change is a bigger disruption to many people’s sleep rhythm.

I actually recommend that you go to bed when you feel sleepy. It is wisdom gained from seeing thousands of patients with sleep troubles (although my grandmother would have told you the same thing). For many people, if they push themselves to stay up, they then get the proverbial second wind and end up awake for hours.

Unfortunately, the alarm clock rings at the usual time, and off we are again, starting yet another week of work sleep-deprived.

Of course, one reason people get a second wind is the things they do in order to stimulate themselves. For example, they work on the computer or watch TV. The light emitted from these screens signals the brain that it is time to get up and plow the field.

How sleepy you feel on that Sunday night after the change depends on whether you turned your clock back before you went to bed or waited until morning. Changing the clock should be based on people’s normal sleep schedules and on whether they have sleep problems. If you feel that basically your sleep is normal, but you know that often you are not allowing yourself that good eight hours of sleep that most of us need, then set your clock back the night before and get up at your usual time. That way, you have gained an hour of sleep.

If, on the other hand, you regularly get your eight hours of sleep and might not want an extra hour, don’t set the clock back the night before. If you get up at the same time you usually do, then you will have your normal amount of sleep and feel that you have gained an hour on Sunday morning when you turn the clock back.

The same advice holds true if you have sleep disorders such as insomnia or delayed sleep phase syndrome. These disorders make your sleep/wake schedule rather fragile such that an extra hour might not be a good thing; rather, it could throw your schedule way out of whack.

For most people, it is not the acute shift in the clock that is the problem in the fall. It is all the short, gray days ahead and the long periods of darkness. Winter conditions in the Northern Hemisphere can lead to sleep disturbance, daytime sleepiness, fatigue and depression.

So as we shift into the cold, dark season, try to get as much light in the morning and throughout the day as possible, even using a light box if necessary. Also, try to keep to a regular daily exercise routine.

These basic health habits can help ward off the winter blues and help you get regular sleep.

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.

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Filed under: Sleep

soundoff (298 Responses)
  1. Patem

    Wikipedia article, pasted into "timely" headline... This is CNN.

    November 5, 2011 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Rodney

    I read this twice thinking I had missed some sort of insight. I was wrong.

    November 5, 2011 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Samuel

      Seriously. These are general sleep tips. Nothing to do with clock change. How dumb...

      November 6, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    "I actually recommend that you go to bed when you feel sleepy."

    Ah. I can see why you are a doctor.

    November 5, 2011 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Phil

      So I suppose this article authorises me to fall asleep at my desk tomorrow! Thanks CNN!

      November 5, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
  4. confused


    November 5, 2011 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rick01

    I will be trying to go to sleep a hour early tonight. I have a dog that wakes me up at sunrise. So I'll get no extra hour of sleep here. I'm sure others that have their pet on a schedule will agree with me.

    November 5, 2011 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      just smack the dog in the nose a few times.

      November 6, 2011 at 00:12 | Report abuse |
    • 2rhabd

      Small children are as bad as pets, so setting the clock back meant this morning it was getting up at "5am" instead of "6am".

      November 6, 2011 at 08:17 | Report abuse |
  6. Purple

    Okay. Pretty long article for just one line of advice. -.-

    November 5, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Paul

    Great article. Without having read that I really would know what to do. Thanks Dr. Lisa.

    November 5, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Joe

    If you go to bed normally at 11pm, read this article at 10pm and you'll have no trouble falling asleep an hour earlier.

    November 5, 2011 at 22:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Funny


      November 6, 2011 at 00:26 | Report abuse |
  9. pmmarion

    It is not a matter of needing DST,it is more a case of the convenience of it. The IDIOTS who object to DST are just obstructionist...

    November 5, 2011 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Edward

    I've found that a huge help is a lamp on a timer set to turn on about 15 minutes before my alarm. This seems to trick my brain into thinking the sun is rising, and I wake up a lot easier when the alarm goes off.

    November 5, 2011 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • david hill

      Thanks edward. I think that's good, sound advice and is something i learned from reading this. "This," unfortunately, being your comment. (t-i-c/l-o-l)

      November 6, 2011 at 04:34 | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    I moved to Arizona a couple years ago, a state which does not observe daylight savings time. Never have to worry about changing the clock. I love it. I wish every state dumped daylight savings time. Pointless exercise in my opnion.

    November 5, 2011 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kathy

      I just returned to CA after living in Tucson for five years. One of the few things (very few things) that I loved about the state was not having to change the clocks. I agree, the rest of the country needs to dump it.

      November 5, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse |
  12. Kenny Jorayta

    The advice of this article is as old as the writer itself...piece of junk nothing new.

    November 5, 2011 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. HV

    Falling one hour behind in the fall and having to drive home in the dark is much more depressing. Actually moving the clock one hour ahead in the spring is much better. I wish time change in the next srping is final. No more back and forth.

    November 5, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RC


    November 5, 2011 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. milden

    i really like it because i can see the kids geting up with no dificulty in the morning to go to school and i can see thembetter when they go to school, now if i do not have kids in school i do not care at all . all i want is to go to bed and sleep but i have difficult time to do that

    November 6, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Justin

    Honestly I'll just treat this as a normal night for me with a hour gained. I'm usually up late gaming anyway and fall asleep easily around 5 AM. Ah the life of college student working part time. ;p

    November 6, 2011 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. steven harnack

    The farmers don't want an end to DST because they are afraid that the extra hour of sunlight might hurt the crops.

    November 6, 2011 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      You do know that DST doesn't change the earth's rotation around the sun, don't you?

      November 6, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
    • LindaY

      You know DST has nothing to do with farmers, right? Why does everyone think that?

      November 7, 2011 at 09:50 | Report abuse |
  18. dr sleep

    Actually she should have said..get some bright light at 2 hrs after you would normally wake up, this will put your circadian clock back in check....

    November 6, 2011 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RichardSRussell

    For decades now, we have been starting DST ever earlier and ending it ever later. I look forward to that halcyon day in the future when the 2 ends will meet, it will be DST year-round, and we can finally dispense with this idiotic semi-annual meaningless ritual.

    November 6, 2011 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LindaY

      We had year round DST for one year in the 1970s to save energy. It was a disaster. There were kids waiting for school buses in darkness, and several of them were struck by cars. There were more traffic accidents in the morning commutes due to the darkness. When data was collected afterwards, they discovered we not only didn't save energy, we used more of it.

      November 7, 2011 at 09:53 | Report abuse |
  20. vivian m

    I wonder how much the writer got paid for this piece?

    November 6, 2011 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Richard Bergstrom

    Light box? You mean a lamp?


    A $50-$100 lamp?

    November 6, 2011 at 03:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. The Mighty Cheese

    What?!? Its not August anymore?

    November 6, 2011 at 05:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. nguyen van thieu

    it annoying,changing time who benefit of doing this .i don't.,so please stop this stupid idea,and leave it alone.

    November 6, 2011 at 06:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Annie

    "I actually recommend that you go to bed when you feel sleepy."

    Oh, boy.

    November 6, 2011 at 07:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jay

    Sorry I'm a adult and don't need a doctor to tell me when its my bed time.

    November 6, 2011 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daniel

      Then, why'd you read it?

      November 6, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
  26. James Anderson

    A worthless story wasting our time as does so much of the other noise presented. Tell us something useful or something we don't already know!

    November 6, 2011 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Lespes

    The solution to this is to have two homes in adjacent time zones. Then you just move to the one that is an hour earlier or later, never having to suffer the extreme trauma of adjusting to the time change.

    November 6, 2011 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Dan

    Doesn't matter when I go to bed our two 5 year olds will be strolling in our room at the same time they always do, not an hour later. Doesn't matter if they go to bed at 8 or 11 PM they still get up at the exact same time!.

    November 6, 2011 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Dottynet

    So glad to live at the beach in the sunny south. It is beautiful today and could not imagine waking up to snow, ice, gloom, or extreme cold. The time change feels fresh in the fall, and when it moves up in the spring, it means it's time to hit the beach.

    November 6, 2011 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. bill

    If marijuana was legal we could sleep just fine and be less stressed out. But then the pharma would lose money and the lawyers would lose money and the cops would lose budgets and yeah better regulate non harmful choice while the alleged drug free run the world into the ground. Meanwhile CNN embraces tabloid journalism and passes it off as being the worlds news authority....back in the 80's maybe.....

    November 6, 2011 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. danial54

    It should be permanent.....all the time. We need the daylight in the evening.

    November 6, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Tyokol

    What a ridiculous piece of nonsense, CNN, Thanks for nothing.

    November 6, 2011 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. srat67

    Do we really need advice on how to handle an hour of sleep either gained or lost? So if I'm awakened an hour early by a phone call or the neighbor mowing his lawn should I seek professional advice on handling the deprivation? Or on a day off from work I sleep an hour or two later? How is the time change any different?

    November 6, 2011 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Tub E. Toobyfore

    Just get rid of DST already!! We don't need it to harvest the crops any more than we need it to hunt and gather. Let it be read about in history books.

    November 6, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LindaY

      DST has nothing to do with farmers. Why does everyone have this idea?

      November 7, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
  35. Viveka

    Was this a joke? Has time been turned so far back that it's April Fools Day again?
    Sleep when you're tired! Wow! Genius!

    November 6, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Dobro

    I agree with danial45. Many CNN voters who voted against DST probably did not understand that turning off DST puts them in the dark coming home from work at 5pm. Keeping DST throughout the year would create more business because most work shifts lock people down to the 8 to 5 and they'd rather go home than shop in the dark. It's an ages old thinking of having 4 hours before and after the highest peak of the sun. That extra morning light in the fall and winter is spent getting ready for work not getting up early to go wait for the doors to open at a store somewhere at 8am except of course for Black Friday.

    November 6, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • oh yea

      Exactly. I.couldn't believe the majority voted against it. We are now in normal standard time and it gets dark early. Who wants that????

      November 6, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
    • HC21

      Who cares? We all have cars WITH LIGHTS. and street LIGHTS so we can see at night in places where there are businesses. Makes no difference to me if it's light or dark, I head to the store when I need to.

      November 6, 2011 at 16:24 | Report abuse |
  37. Lester_Leaps_In

    In this age of computers and digital clocks, why not have clocks that automatically adjust themselves daily so that sunset happens at 8:00pm everyday.

    November 6, 2011 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. beck

    What is this? A Highshool english report on Daylight savings?

    November 6, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Dave

    Hey will you guys do me a favor and visit HelpFaye.ORG a friend of mine is fighting for her life.... Thank you

    November 6, 2011 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. leapfrog

    Stop fooling around with clocks and abolish DST. There's no point to it...never has been.

    November 6, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. elflander

    I am depressed just thinking about what it was like living in Minnesota through the several winters I was there. I have since escaped to the Southeast. And I am trying to work out a deal with God so that he gives me those years back. I don't think it is fair to count them.

    November 6, 2011 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Adam

    I may have gotten an extra hour of sleep last night, but I will never get the ten minutes back that it took me to read this article.

    November 6, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Duckmanbill

    Impressive. Both a doctor and a captain. Captain obvious that is.

    November 6, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Sophie

    Apparently the writer gets paid by the word. Was advice buried in there somewhere? I couldn't get past the first 2 sentences.

    November 6, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dale

    The problem with this daylight saving time, there's a lot of people out there too lazy or too stupid to change your clocks.
    Solution to this is by a satellite clock that changes times itself.

    The other solution is set your clock back early ignore that time go to bed when you normally would, and when you get up you get an extra hour sleep and the time is correct simplest that.

    November 6, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Bob

    As one who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the DST helps me to cope. But with the abrupt change I am thrown into the doldrums SAD. I would like to see the clock moved an hour up permanently. I know abt the kids going to school in the dark. Frankly that is why street lights were invented.

    November 6, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. polkovnik

    The question in the CNN daily poll is whether or not we still need DST. Wrong question: it should be, do we still need standard time, and if so, why..

    November 6, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Linda

    My question is: Do we still need Standard Time? What's wrong with always being on Daylight Savings time?

    November 6, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • HC21

      Either way, I don't care. Pick one and keep it.

      November 6, 2011 at 16:21 | Report abuse |
  49. Wayne

    After 35 years of shift work and another 13 yrs ignoring "spring forward and fall back", I highly recommend retirement. Go to bed when the party is over and let your body clock wake you.

    November 6, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. HC21

    I hate hate hate these stupid time changes. They are useless. Fall back and you get an extra hour of sleep? Not when you have kids who don't know how to tell time yet. Besides that, I don't need it anyway.

    November 6, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
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