Managing Sleep When The Clocks Go Back

With this Sunday seeing the end of daylight savings, we all get to enjoy an extra hour of sleep as we turn our clocks back. Well, that’s the theory anyway, but for those of us with young kids or consistent body clocks it’s likely that this extra hour of sleep will elude us. Then we must contend with the resulting shift in our body’s daily sleep-wake cycle that can disrupt our sleep for several days after, leaving us feeling tired and cranky.

In fact, a review of the research published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews found that a seemingly small one-hour shift in the sleep-wake cycle can affect sleep for up to a week1. According to the research, many of us will wake up earlier, have more trouble falling asleep, and will be more likely to wake up during the night. Short sleepers (people who sleep less than 7.5 hours a night) and early risers will find the adjustment to the new schedule the hardest.

A lack of sleep caused by turning the clocks back can negatively affect thinking, decision-making, and productivity and lead to mood disturbances2. These problems arise because the switch back from daylight savings time alters the pattern of daylight exposure which can throw out your body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is your internal body clock that helps control your sleep-wake cycle and many other processes like hormone production and body temperature. It’s important for the proper functioning of your body.

To help you adjust to the clock moving back an hour, try incorporating these five healthy lifestyle habits for better sleep.

  1. Establish and practice good sleep habits: Much like a morning routine, your night-time routine matters. Create a night-time routine for the activities you do before bed. Try having a hot shower, reading a book, or listening to a meditation app. These activities will send a signal to your brain telling you it’s time to wind down, preparing your body and mind for a good night’s sleep.
  2. Watch what you eat: What and how much you eat in the evening and before bed can affect your sleep3. Some foods such as coffee, sugary treats, and green tea can make it more difficult to fall asleep while others like milk, tart cherries, and kiwi fruit help to induce sleep4. Big dinners or eating too close to bedtime might make you feel temporarily drowsy but tend to prolong digestion which can interfere with a good night’s sleep5. If you can, try to give yourself three hours between dinner and going to bed so that your body has time to devote energy to digestion first and then sleep.
  3. Limit your screen time: Technology like phones and tablets emit high levels of blue light, which affects your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels (a hormone that promotes sleep), tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime and making it harder for you to fall asleep. To help you get the best night’s sleep, switch to night mode on your devices and turn them off at least an hour before bed.
  4. Gradually adjust your sleep: If you really struggle with the clock changes with daylight savings, gradually adjust your sleep-wake cycle in the week leading up to the official time change. With the clocks switching back, shift your bedtime earlier by 20 to 30 minutes in the few days before. This helps your body make gradual shifts and slowly adjust. You can do the opposite in the lead-up to the start of daylight savings. Pushing back your sleep 30 minutes in the few days before the official clock change.
  5. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed: Alcohol disrupts sleep hormones making it harder to stay asleep at night, while caffeine stimulates your nervous system keeping you alert and awake. To get the best night’s sleep, avoid having alcohol and caffeine late in the day.

References:

  1. Harrison, Y. The impact of daylight-saving time on sleep and related behaviours. Sleep Medicine Reviews 2013;17(4):285-292.
  2. Pires G, Bezerra A et al. Effects of acute sleep deprivation on state anxiety levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med 2016; 24:109-118.
  3. Crispim C, Zimberg I et al. Relationship between food intake and sleep pattern in healthy individuals. J Clin Sleep Med 2011;7(6):659-664.
  4. Zeng Y, Yang J, Du J et al. Strategies of functional foods promote sleep in human beings. Curr Signal Transduct Ther 2014;9(3):148-155.
  5. Chung N, Sun Bin Y et al. Does the proximity of meals to bedtime influence the sleep of young adults? A cross-sectional survey of university students. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2020

 

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