Research has taught us that maintaining a consistent bed and rising time are helpful in having a restful night of sleep. It is also recommended that adults attain approximately 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. However, many of us have erratic sleep schedules, and thus some days we struggle with energy and alertness.
Moreover, people across the United States realize the impact just a single hour of sleep has in their lives twice yearly. Most states recognize daylight savings time, requiring people to move their clocks forward the second Sunday in March and back the first Sunday in November. As we are heading into November, the season to “Fall Back” is upon us. Remember that this one hour shift in your schedule impacts the light your body receives, which impacts the hormones in your body, and thus your circadian rhythms. This may mean you leave for work in the dark and return home in the dark. This fall shift often results in increases in symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, headaches, and depression for many.
How can you make the transition easier on your body? The answer is plan ahead. Start by going to bed 20 minutes later the three nights (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) leading up to the November time change. On Saturday, the day before the time change, try shifting your daily activities to an earlier time beginning after lunch. If possible, change your clocks Saturday afternoon and follow your normal meal times and evening routine according to the adjusted time. Avoid the temptation to stay up even later on Saturday night. Also, limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine the day before the time change, as these items may impact your ability to fall asleep.
During the weeks following the time change, make an extra effort to get outside. Aim for 20 or 30 minutes of sun exposure daily. Try eating a meal outside if it isn’t too cold. Park farther from the building so it takes you a little longer to walk to your office, the grocery store, or a doctor’s appointment. Even sitting in front of a sunny window can have a positive impact on your body. If you still struggle with headaches, depression, lethargy, or difficulty falling or staying asleep, talk with your doctor about the possibility of light therapy.
This year, don’t “Fall Back” into old habits. Try setting new goals for daily sunlight exposure, consistent bed and rising times, and a restful 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
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Written by Marci L. Hardy, PhD