Two sleep doctors offer some survival tips to help you adjust to losing that hour of sleep as clocks spring forward into daylight saving time.
Twice a year in spring and fall, our internal clocks must be reset due to changing the clocks and daylight savings. One hour may seem insignificant, but even this minimal amount can cause sleep problems and, in some cases, significant health repercussions. Spring forward often is harder than fall back, but why is that the case? Our natural internal body clock rhythm actually tends to be a bit longer than 24 hours and in return we often delay our sleep schedules. When we spring forward, it goes against our body’s natural rhythm.
Even though it is only one hour of sleep lost, it often leads to sleep disruptions for a few days or even a week, therefore leading to cumulative sleep loss. It can almost be compared to a jet lag feeling. As a result, we should not just jump into daylight savings, but prepare as much as possible the week before for the time shift that occurs every spring.
Because sleep loss can lead to major health issues like heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke, it is imperative to strive to get the correct sleep your body needs. Below are 11 tips to prepare for the time change.
1.) Do not go into spring forward with a “sleep debt.” Make sure you are getting adequate sleep leading up to the time change.
2.) Try to prepare for the time change. Going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier every night leading up to the weekend can help significantly. Also waking up earlier the day prior to the time change, so that you are tired and ready for bed that night. Keeping the same wake up time on weekdays and weekends is also beneficial.
3.) Use the light. Bright light is the strongest cue for your internal clock. If you don’t have access to natural light for some reason, use artificial light to help.
4.) Minimize your exposure to bright light at night. Blue light from screens can signal your internal clock to wake up later the next day. It’s important to stay off screens 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.
5.) If you have room darkening curtains, make sure to open them as soon as you wake to help set your sleep-wake cycle.
6.) Plan all your activities for the day before. Make sure to plan relaxing activities the night before to ensure a good night’s rest, like reading or meditating.
7.) Exercise in the morning, even if it is only taking a walk.
8.) Load up on protein rich foods. Sleep deprivation increases appetite and cravings for carbohydrates.
9.) Do not drink caffeine after noon. This can lead to disrupted sleep and trouble falling asleep.
10.) Do not drink alcohol near bedtime. It can disturb sleep.
11.) Be patient. This really applies to parents with young children. Sleep deprivation can lead to more frequent meltdowns and irritability. Adults and children should consider an early afternoon nap, maybe only for 20 minutes. This can help deal with the change in time.
Prioritizing your sleep pays off not only in the short term but also over the years. It is imperative to your health and leading productive and fulfilling days.
By: Beth Gray