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.
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