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Happiness Tip: Use the Time Change to Your Benefit

Moving our clocks this weekend is going to change our bodies’ principal cue (light) for keeping time with our circadian rhythm. This usually causes us to be temporarily jet-lagged, or out of sync with our 24-hour wake/sleep schedule, making a lot of us a feel a little off our game.

Fortunately, we can use this time change to repay some of the sleep debt we’ve accumulated. To do that, we’ll need to go to bed early this week. I think this is the best week of the year to do this–if you go to bed at your normal time, say 11:00pm, you’ll be more tired than usual, because, to your body, you’ve just stayed up until midnight. Split the difference, and hit the hay a half hour early, say, at 10:30pm. And then wake up at your “normal” time, which is, of course, an hour later than normal. Research shows that adding a half hour of sleep like this can really make a difference. And when we’ve accumulated sleep debt, our bodies and brains soak up the extra sleep. Hopefully you’ll wake up feeling extra rested!

If you know you aren’t getting enough sleep, but you feel like you can’t get to bed early this week given everything else you’ve got going on, I’d like to challenge you on that.

Think for a minute about what you want to do with your one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver says. What are your highest priorities? Your health? Your happiness? High achievement at work or school? Raising happy and healthy children? Being the kind of person your friends and family want to hang out with? Here’s the truth: You will not fulfill your potential in any of these realms unless you get the sleep your body, brain, and spirit need. A mountain of research supports this claim.

Take Action: Adjust your sleep schedule this week so that you are getting 7+ hours of sleep (unless you are a teenager: then you need 9+ hours). If that seems impossible over the long run, commit to paying back some sleep debt this week, when it will be easier to fall asleep early.

Join the Discussion: What changes do you notice in yourself when you get more sleep? Share your thoughts in the comments.