By Dr. Eleonora Naydis
How do we actually “Spring Forward” (as opposed to dragging our feet) with daylight saving time? Not only do we lose an hour of precious sleep, moving time forward also affects our internal clock. Additional sleep loss resulting from daylight saving time-change was found to be associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attacks, and traffic accidents. Lack of sleep can also affect our mood, memory, and concentration.
So how do we make this transition easier? – Get the right amount of light at the right time.
Get plenty of light first thing in the morning. Try to spend as much time outside as possible in the first part of the day. Light is a primary cue that synchronizes our internal circadian rhythm to the outside environment. Light suppresses production of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps us sleep, so that we are awake and active during the day.
Keep your room dark during the night. Before bedtime, don’t use any TV or electronic devices for a few hours to get your body ready for sleep. Electronic devices emit blue light, which suppresses production of melatonin (remember, we need melatonin to feel sleepy). Also watching TV/news can increase the levels of cortisol (stress hormone), and can affect your sleep in a negative way.
And here are additional reminders for better sleep:
- Develop a routine: go to bed and wake up at the same time.
- Avoid caffeine, spicy heavy meals before meals, and nicotine in the second part of the day.
- Eat a protein snack a few hours prior to bed.
- Avoid alcohol. While it can help falling asleep, it prevents you from getting good quality sleep.
- If you are having trouble with sleep, go to bed when tired and get up if you can’t sleep after 20 minutes. Don’t take naps during the day.
- Develop sleep rituals – take a bath, listen to relaxing music, meditate before bed. Make your bedroom a relaxing place.
- Exercise is important, but some people need to exercise earlier during the day for better night sleep.
Happy spring and easy transitions to you all!