It’s that time of year again – this coming Sunday morning at 2 am local time, daylight savings time ends, and we turn our clocks back an hour. (Or, more accurately, we get to sleep in an hour longer Sunday morning, without being late - yeah!)
That’s the good news.
The bad news?
Well, it’s true - we have to remember! Hopefully this memory-jog helps, and, with your calendar updated, this potential concern can get crossed off the list.
Additionally, science has proven what many of us sense - that even such a small disruption in sleep, such as changing our sleep time by an hour, can be enough to disrupt our circadian rhythm.
How do we know this? Numerous research studies now testify to the truth that one hour change makes a huge difference. Dr. Matthew Walker, PhD, in his book “Why We Sleep” cites the “frightening spike in heart attacks” the day after we lose sleep in the Spring, and the drop in heart attacks the day after we gain an hour in the Fall.
So we should be fine now, since we’re gaining an hour, right?
Well, yes and no.
One of the key recommendations given by sleep doctors is to sleep and wake at the same time each day. In fact, W. Chris Winter, MD, board-certified sleep-medicine specialist and author of “The Sleep Solution,” says that if he had to pick just one thing to tell his patients, it would be wake at the same time each day, no matter how much sleep he or she got that night.
So how can we apply this advice in the midst of the contradictory instruction to “Set the clocks back an hour?”
To help our bodies adjust, one of the best things you can do is to exercise in the morning, ideally in the sunlight (you may have to remind yourself that sun is present, even if it’s behind dark clouds). The idea is that the bright daylight helps to shut off your body’s production of melatonin, reminding it that it’s time to be awake. This will be especially key if you can do this Sunday morning, to help establish this “new normal” sleep-wake cycle.
Another strategy is to start several nights before the official time change to adjust your bedtime in 15 minute increments. For example, since we’re about to gain an extra hour, start by staying up 15 minutes later, until the new time feels more natural.
And have you been wanting to cut back on sugar, or to cut down on caffeine or alcohol? If so, know you’re on the right track. This would be a perfect time! Sugar, caffeine and alcohol all disrupt sleep, in different ways. Minimizing or avoiding these will help you get on track with the new sleep/wake times.
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