Using Time-Zone Tricks to Survive Time Changes

Most areas of the U.S. are subjected to involuntary time changes, like the one that may be hitting you hard today, good old “Spring Forward” into Daylight Savings Time, where we lose an hour of our well-earned sleep. The audacity!

A creature of habit, time changes can leave me feeling disoriented for a good week if I don’t take some proactive steps to lessen their impact. Fortunately, we have experience traveling to different time zones to lean on to survive the changes. Here are some things I do to make it a little easier on myself whether traveling or just dealing with the dreaded time changes at home.

One of the reasons I force myself to be an early bird.

Daylight Savings Time (Spring Forward) = Traveling West to East
Losing an hour is especially rough for me, as someone who forces herself to be a morning person out of necessity. For one, my dog barks at anything and everything on the street that moves, so I try to be out the door no later than 6 a.m. to walk her, before too much else is going on. I also feel like my day and week get away from me if I don’t give myself enough time to walk, make breakfast, read some news, drink coffee, get ready and listen to my podcasts or an audiobook. Yesterday (Sunday) I woke up at about 6:30 a.m., which was essentially my normal weekly wake-up time of 5:30/5:45, and forced myself to stay up. I wanted to nap all day, but I held out. When us East coasters travel to Europe (remember traveling to Europe!?!?!) it’s a good idea to take a redeye flight, sleep on the plane if you can, and stay up the whole next day until you can reasonably crash and get a restful night’s sleep to help adjust yourself to the local time zone. That’s what I try to do on a micro scale to deal with the lost hour due to the ever-brutal DST.

Being stuck on East Coast time helped me be up for glorious sunrises in Hawaii, like this one in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Standard Time (Fall Back) = Traveling East to West
What’s not to love about getting more time? Traveling westward from the East coast makes it so much easier to acclimate for us “morning people,” real or artificial. On my recent trip to Hawaii, I would wake up very early (4 or 5 a.m.) either naturally or when my phone would buzz hearing from friends back home who were just getting started with their day. I would stay awake for a bit, read some emails, look at social media, then go back to sleep for a couple of hours, or not, based on what I wanted to do that day. The hardest part of the fall time change for me, and probably most people, is when it abruptly gets dark at 5 p.m. every night. The sudden lack of daylight is telling your body to go to sleep, but it’s flipping 5 p.m., man. I deal with this in a very old-person kind of way, which is to get up and go to sleep sooner, like I did for most of my Hawaii trip. It was fine in this case with zero nightlife and early COVID closures, but one of these days we’re all going to be partying it up in Vegas, California or Japan and will need to find a way to force ourselves to stay up. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Do you hate the time changes as much as I do? Do you have travel hacks or life hacks to trick yourself into adjusting faster? Other than consuming a bucket of coffee, how do you survive?


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