November 6 marks the end of Daylight Saving Time this year. Unlike with the spring clock change, we will gain a precious extra hour of sleep. Thanks to that extra hour, “falling back” isn’t nearly as disruptive as “springing forward.” Our circadian rhythms – our bodies’ natural clocks – operate on a cycle slightly longer than 24 hours, making it easier to adjust to this change.
Though most of us will see the extra hour of sleep as a gift that weekend, by the middle of the week we will be back to our usual patterns. Thus, the end of Daylight Saving Time is a perfect opportunity to evaluate our sleep habits and make sleep a priority. The following recommendations are often helpful:
- Set a bedtime routine: A warm bath, light reading, or listening to calming music can help.
- Make mornings bright: Light is the best cue for our bodies to know that it is time to wake up. Open the shades, turn on bright lights, or even consider investing in a light box to use on the dark mornings of winter.
- Avoid too much light stimulation at night: Screens from iPads, cell phones, laptops and certain E-readers give off blue light, which fools your brain into thinking it is time to stay alert. The usual recommendation is to avoid these for 60-90 minutes before bed.
- Limit Caffeine: Most folks are aware that coffee, tea, and sodas may contain caffeine, but individuals can be affected by chocolate and certain over-the-counter pain medications as well. Ideally, caffeine consumption should be stopped at least six hours before bedtime.
- Exercise: Studies show that individuals who exercise at least 150 minutes a week have fewer sleep problems. Timing can be important, though. Activities that are too vigorous close to bedtime may interfere with sleep. However, exercising 5-6 hours before bedtime may be perfect to help induce sleep. Stretching or calming exercises, such as yoga, can be done closer to bedtime to help soothe you.
- Monitor your food intake: Heavy, late meals interfere with sleep. Not only do our bodies have a circadian rhythm for sleep, but our liver and gut have them, too. A light snack, such as a combination of protein with a healthy fat and a complex carbohydrate, can help induce sleep. Try almond butter smeared on a few slices of apples, or half a banana with some organic yogurt.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime: It is tempting to think of a “night cap” as helping sleep; however, as the alcohol is metabolized significant sleep disruption occurs.
If snoring and episodes of choking are noted by a bed partner, please discuss this with your doctor. Underlying sleep apnea can cause significant sleep disturbances and can be dangerous to your health.
Sleep tight and sweet dreams.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To schedule an appointment with a CEENTA doctor, call 704-295-3000.
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