If you’re anything like me – gaining an extra hour of sleep is like getting upgraded on a long flight – a rare occurrence, but when it happens – it feels damn good!
So, you can imagine my excitement every year on the first Sunday in November, when time “falls back” and we gain an extra hour of sleep! Yet each year, I inevitably have a horrible night’s sleep and typically I feel out-of-whack for a few days after. And according to the Harvard Medical School– I’m not alone. They say that, ‘In reality, many people don’t, or can’t, take advantage of the extra hour of sleep. And the resulting shift in the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle can disrupt sleep for several days.’ So, what gives?! Why do our bodies have such trouble adjusting to this small time change?
The answer is because of our Circadian Rhythms. Your circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that keeps it aligned with the 24-hour day. It helps us to know when to be alert, to rest, to digest food, release hormones, etc. These functions however, are largely controlled by external cues such as daylight, darkness, eating times, etc. So, it’s no wonder that when these external cues change, our internal clock feels the shift, and it can take up to a few days to correct itself.
But the question remains: Can you “beat the circadian system” and make it through this Daylight Savings time shift unscathed? The answer is yes! Here are a few tips to help reset your circadian rhythm, adjust to the new time change, and feel like sunshine as we head into darker days.
1. Power down
The biggest inhibitor to our body’s ability to get into a restful state is artificial light. Which is why adjusting our indoor lighting is key. As the outside world starts to get darker, so should your inside world, which means dimming and turning off the lights in your house as the sunsets. This will ‘cue’ your body to release the hormone melatonin, and help prepare it for rest. Another way to cut out artificial light in the evening is to avoid screens as early on in the evening as possible. According to the National Sleep Foundation, ‘using electronic devices before bedtime can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can adversely affect your sleep’. That’s why it’s so important to turn them off as soon as possible. If you have to keep them on, have them on a dimmed night setting so as to reduce the amount of artificial light.
2. Exposure to daylight in the morning
In the same way that you adjust your lights inside to help you go to sleep, you also want to ensure that you’re getting exposure to sunlight in the morning. In fact, getting enough exposure to sunlight not only helps your body release serotonin, which boosts your mood and helps you feel calm and focused, it also has a variety of other health benefits.
3. Have a morning and evening ritual
There is a reason why the most successful people have morning and evening rituals– because they work. The reason? Routines help to naturally prime our bodies for what’s to come, whether it be a calm, relaxed morning or a restful evening. Relaxing bedtime routines can help prime your body for sleep in the same way that quiet morning routines can help start your day off on the right foot. Need help designing one, check out this article by Zapier, for some ideas.
4. Adjust your meal times
Meal times are a huge factor when it comes to restoring your circadian rhythm. Dr. Sarah Wilson, author of “Finally Lose it” recommends eating at consistent times every day to help your body anticipate meals and optimize your body’s metabolism. If you really want to help restore your internal clock, Sarah suggests eating your last meal before the sun goes down, which in the winter is typically around 5 p.m. Your digestive system and hormones will be primed at that time to digest your meal and the extended overnight fasting period will help your body to burn more fat.
5. Switch up your beverages in the P.M.
The two most loved beverages around the world are likely coffee and wine. But these are the beverages that you should be most conscious of consuming the week before and the week after Daylight Savings time. If you drink coffee throughout the day, it’s recommended to avoid it after 2 p.m. Instead, try a decaf tea like lemon, peppermint, or chamomile. If you also happen to love a glass of wine at night to ‘wind down’ it’s recommended that you cut it out for this week. Although a few glasses of wine will send you right to bed, the quality of your sleep will be impacted. According to Sleep.org, ‘During the second half of the night, this sleepy effect wears off and you’ll be more likely to wake up or toss and turn, reducing your overall time spent asleep. In addition, REM sleep (the absolute deepest stage of sleep, during which you dream) is negatively affected by booze. To ensure you’re getting the best sleep possible, switch up your glass of vino with some chamomile or sleepy tea instead.
6. Slowly adjust your sleep schedule
To make sure you’re sufficiently caught up on sleep, the National Sleep Foundation, suggests adjusting your bedtime by 15 minutes a night the week before the time change to help your sleep patterns adjust. Your body will react better to a gradual change than the more dramatic one-hour shift.
Follow these tips and help beat Daylight Savings Time once and for all! Wishing you all a blissful extra hour of sleep on November 4th!
With love and nut butter,