It seems like Daylight Saving Time sneaks up on us every year, leaving us confused and having trouble adjusting our schedules. Thanks to modern technology, most of our clocks automatically adjust with the time change, somewhat preventing the days of missing that next Monday morning meeting. Daylight Saving occurs this year on Sunday, March 12th, when all clocks will roll forward one hour.
So why do we have trouble adjusting to an hour time change? Well, it has a lot to do with our circadian rhythm, which is our internal clocks that manage our sleep and wake cycles. When we change the time, we essentially put our circadian rhythm out of sync. Luckily, our circadian rhythm can be adjusted through our environment. Here are a few things we can do to make this adjustment easier.
If you are someone who has a lot of trouble adjusting to time changes, you may want to prepare my slowly changing your habits 10-15 minutes at a time the week before. If you go to bed and wake up a little earlier each day, your body will slowly adjust. It is important though to keep relatively the same schedule to adapt the time change. Be consistent with the times you eat, exercise, and socialize. You may be tempted to sleep in later or take a long nap during the day to catch up on that hour, but these strategies often backfire causing you more difficulty falling asleep at night further disrupting your internal clock.
If you already exercise, keep up the routine! If not, exercise could help your body adjust to the time change. When we exercise, our bodies release serotonin, a chemical in the brain that stabilizes our mood, helps digestion, and stimulates the parts of our brain controlling our sleep and wake cycles. Exercise will also help to induce fatigue to allow your body to relax and sleep sooner. However, be careful about exercising too late in the day as it could interfere with the quality of your sleep.
There are a few things we can remember to do that will help us to fall asleep at a decent time.
- Avoid caffeine after midday – Caffeine is a stimulant that could keep you awake at night. Many people feel restless at night when they are attempting to fall asleep if they consume caffeine in the afternoon. Know your body and how it is affected by caffeine to set a time after which caffeine is off limits for you.
- Don’t rely on alcohol – Alcohol consumption may initially make you feel drowsy, but it can interfere with your sleep cycle, causing less deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and more disrupted sleep. If you do consume alcohol, supplement it with water and try to stick to only one or two drinks.
- Allow food to digest before bed – Meal times may be affected by the time change, but don’t allow yourself to eat so late that your food doesn’t have time to digest before you lie down in bed. Letting food sit in your stomach can also interfere with your sleep quality by causing heartburn or acid reflux.
- Light Cues – Our circadian rhythm responds best to natural indicators of time, such as light and dark. To help with this, make sure you dim the lights in the evening when it’s time to wind down and open the blinds (or turn on lights) in the morning to encourage your body to wake. Exposure to light, especially natural sunlight, helps sync our natural circadian rhythm. Using bright lights at night or dark environments in the morning will make it more difficult for your body’s internal clock to adjust.