Few things upset a well-tuned household routine like the annual switch to daylight saving time. This year, plan to spring forward on Sunday, March 10, at 2 a.m. local time.

On the one hand, you love the extra daylight at the end of the workday. However, jostling sleep schedules, managing irritability, and helping your children recover from the time change can be a challenge.

There are things you can do to minimize the disruption and get your family’s circadian rhythms back on track.

Give Yourself an Extra Hour

Take time to make lunches, set out clothing for your family, and prep breakfast items before you go to bed. The morning will seem much too early to be up and about. The more you can do the night before to minimize the chaos the next day, the more relaxed you’ll be as you head into the week.

Hit the Sack Early

If possible, get your children to bed a half-hour earlier during the first week. Even if your kids aren’t tired, you can help them wind down by turning off digital devices, dimming the lights, reading them a story, and letting them have some quiet time a bit earlier than usual.

Chances are that you’re fairly sleep deprived as well, so giving yourself extra time to unwind will help you fall asleep more quickly and stave off sluggishness the next day. Turn off your computer and television, keep your room dark and cool, and try deep-breathing exercises to relax.

Embrace the Morning Sun

Exposing yourself to bright sunlight first thing in the morning stimulates your brain and encourages your body to get moving. Open the drapes, head outside for a morning walk, or drink your cup of coffee near a window. If you can’t enjoy the sun before you head to work for the day, take a mid-morning break and go outside for a few minutes. The fresh air and bright light will help invigorate you through the lunch hour.

Eat Your Energy

Try boosting your intake of energy-boosting foods. Oats and berries or eggs in the morning, fruit and nuts as snacks, and high-protein foods at lunch and dinner (think lean meats, beans and veggies) will keep your blood sugar stable and help with concentration and energy.

Be careful with your caffeine consumption. You may be tempted to down extra shots of espresso, but be forewarned that too much of a good thing can leave you anxious and jittery. No more than two cups of coffee a day is what most experts suggest.

Be Gentle with Yourself

Studies show that it may take a week or more for your body to adjust to the new time difference, so cut yourself some slack and indulge in that well-earned nap. Hire a babysitter for an hour for a few days, enlist a friend’s help, or trade off with your spouse. Your family will function better if the adults aren’t in the same sleepy funk as the kids. If you have a baby or toddler, put her down for an early nap to ease her into the new schedule – even 15 minutes can make a difference over the course of a week.

Head Outside in the Evening

Take advantage of that extra hour of daylight to get some much-needed fresh air and exercise. During the dark winter days, a stroll after dinner may not have been much of an option. Now, however, you can probably sneak in 30-40 minutes, enough time each day to make a significant impact in your overall health. Plus, letting the kids walk off evening wiggles will help them get ready for bed sooner, and encourage healthy habits for the rest of the year.

— Jen Henderson
This story originally appeared in our March 2012 issue and is updated annually.

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