We all love the long summer nights, but daylight-saving time … not so much.
Springing forward an hour on March 10th can take a toll on your personal health – especially when it comes to sleep. Losing just one hour of sleep can leave us feeling groggy and can take up to a week for our bodies to properly adjust.
Our internal clocks, known as our circadian rhythm, is based on your wake and sleep patterns. Outside factors, like light, medications, activities, pre-bed rituals and daylight saving, can also play a role in the in our sleep-wake cycle. When our circadian rhythms are out of whack, our sleep cycles, as well as our work performance, concentration and memory retention, can be greatly affected.
Before you turn your clocks an hour ahead on Sunday morning, you should be aware on how time changes will affect your internal clock and what you can do to help reset your sleep habits.
For most people, their bodies will adapt to the time change in just a day or two. However, in some cases, it could take up to a week to re-regulate your internal sleep schedule. During this time, your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke increases, and if you’re affected by cluster headaches you may see a rise during this time. There are also more car accidents the day after a time change – usually due to sleep deprivation and fatigue. I know it sounds like scary stuff but if you take the right precautions this time change can be a breeze!
In order to help your body adjust to the impending time change, you should start preparing for it several days before the clocks go back. Start going to bed a little earlier a few days before the time changes. By doing so, you are giving your body time to gradually adjust to going to sleep an hour earlier, rather than an abrupt transition all at once.
As we mentioned, light can influence our circadian rhythm, and we need it to feel fully awake in the mornings. The reason is because sunlight triggers the body’s production of our awake hormone called cortisol. If sunlight isn’t peeking in through your windows by the time your alarm clock goes off, you might want to invest in a light box that omits full-spectrum fluorescent light to properly wake up in the morning and reset your circadian rhythm. In areas where winter can lead to 24 hours of darkness, such as Scandinavia, parts of Russia and even Alaska, a light box is an important part of the morning ritual, and if you are an early riser you might want to do the same.
Our recommended Sleep Hygiene Cycle™ is an important factor in the quality of sleep we receive each night. Daylight saving time is a great opportunity for you to make sure your sleep habits and routines are in check – and good sleep hygiene will make the change much easier on you and your body overall. You can do things like avoiding blue-screen devices before bedtime, optimizing your sleep space and take REMfresh nightly to help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
As much as we dread the time change, it is a fact of life for Americans. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to make the transition to a new schedule as smooth as possible. Don’t worry, you’ll be thankful for the longer days come BBQ season!