It’s that time of year again! That’s right, at 2:00 am on Sunday, November 6th it will be time to dial our clocks back an hour as daylight savings time ends. Some of us can’t wait to fit in that extra hour of coveted sleep, while the rest of us are wondering what kind of cruel joke the universe is playing by completely throwing off our internal clocks.
Whether we’re “springing back” or “falling forward”, the seasonal time changes can cause quite the disconnect between your body’s internal clock and your typical daily schedule. Sunlight helps to govern the physiological cues (or circadian rhythm) that tell your body when to sleep and when to wake up. Our sleep cycles and circadian rhythm can easily become disrupted by the change in daylight hours. These disruptions can affect much more than sleep—think mood, metabolism and weight loss, cardiovascular health, and alertness. With a few time-change survival tips for keeping your sleep schedule intact, you can escape the season unscathed:
- Make an extra effort to be well rested in the week approaching the time change. As with most things in life, a little extra rest can help you feel more prepared. Try going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier than usual the week before the time changes. This should help you feel less of a crash when it begins getting darker earlier. Melatonin can help ease this change as well; usually just for a couple of weeks after the time change is enough.
- Make a few small adjustments to your diet. Anything related to adjusting your diet can seem daunting, but don’t worry! We’re not asking you to make a major change here, but just enough to make it easier to fall asleep. Heavy digestive processes can disrupt your sleep quality, so try having your last meal of the day 3-4 hours before bedtime. Choose a light, healthy snack if you find it hard to fall asleep without eating something before bed. It is also important to consider caffeine and alcohol intake. These are both rather detrimental to quality sleep, so if you are going to consume either of the two, try to cut it off 4-6 hours before bed. Extra magnesium in your diet will help with sleep quality—if you can’t get enough from food, a good quality supplement can help.
- Put a curfew on your electronics! Electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, TVs, and tablets can wreak havoc on your internal clock. The blue light emitted from these devices mimics sunlight, which can further throw off our circadian rhythm by making us feel more alert and suppressing melatonin production. You’ll sleep more soundly by turning your devices off or placing them in another room while you sleep. If you MUST have devices on or nearby, try to not use them an hour before bed, or at the very least consider blue light-blocking glasses or a blue light-blocking app.
- Stick to your schedule. Consistency in your work, eating, social, and sleep schedule is important in general, but it can also help you adjust more easily to the time change. It may take a few days to adjust, but overall you’ll feel less burdened by the shift in daylight hours.
- Don’t forget to squeeze in a little “me time”. Self-care should be a priority at all times of the year, but with the holidays approaching along with the shifts we experience during the time change, it’s doubly important. Self-care can be whatever feels the best to you: a hot bath, time with friends, exercise, or even a massage or acupuncture appointment. Taking good care of yourself can help you to take these changes in stride.
It’s easy and rather normal to feel “a little off” as our bodies and internal clocks adjust to fewer daylight hours, but it’s easy to get back into the swing of things! Luckily, most folks find it easier to adjust to the shorter days of fall and winter than to the longer days of spring and summer. Remember these easy tips for keeping your sleep cycle in check and on the mend! And don’t forget: acupuncture is an excellent way to bring the body back to homeostasis, improve your quality of sleep, and boost your mood. If you need further help sleeping soundly and adjusting to the upcoming hustle and bustle, we’re here to help!
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