Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 3rd. The clock will turn back 1 hour and, theoretically, you should be gaining an hour of sleep. However, many people end up struggling more as a result of this time change.
The body’s circadian rhythm is the regulator of many important biological processes. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) explains it as a “24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and [that] cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.”1 It functions best when your sleep and wake habits are kept consistent.1
Generally, this rhythm is what causes sleepiness in the evening as natural light decreases and alertness in the morning when there is plenty of light. Depending on your habits and your environment, you may be accustomed to waking or sleeping in very different light conditions. This is why flights into different time zones, daylight savings adjustments, and late–night events can wreak havoc on your system, your focus, and your memory. Your body must work to alter its entire biological routine.
Another common problem that crops up around the same time as Daylight Savings, is Seasonal Depression.
Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, this is a type of depression that begins and ends around the same time every year, usually in the darker and cloudier fall and winter months. This is partly due to reduced sunlight. Less light affects your circadian rhythm, your serotonin levels (which affect your mood) and your melatonin levels (which affect your sleep patterns).2
If you’re not sure whether this is something you are experiencing, you can read through the symptoms on the Mayo Clinic website. A more complete and accurate picture, however, should be sought from a professional with the skills to officially diagnose this disorder.
How To Adjust Your Sleep Habits for a More Restful Night
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol in the Late Afternoon and Evening
We are all very well-aware of the effects of caffeine on our ability to sleep. The effects of alcohol on sleep, however, are perhaps not as known.
For a long time, the concept of an alcoholic “nightcap” before bed was popular and promoted as a way to improve your ability to sleep. In an article on alcohol and its relationship to sleep, a quote by researcher Irshaad Ebrahim explains why this is not the case.
Ebrahim states that, while alcohol may help induce sleep, it disrupts the second half of our sleep cycle, particularly the quality of REM sleep.3
REM sleep is important for the storage of memories, for learning, and for balancing our mood.4 A later comment by sleep Specialist Dr. Michael Breus explains that using alcohol as a sleep aid will actually increase the likelihood that you will “sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.”3
The ultimate takeaway is that caffeine and alcohol are both great disrupters of sleep.
Stick to a Sleep and Wake Schedule
Have you ever noticed that your body will naturally wake up around the time your alarm is supposed to go off, even on the weekends? This is because the body likes to have a rhythm in the way in operates.
You can teach your body to follow a certain schedule by sticking to your sleep and wake times even on days when you don’t have anything-in-particular on your agenda. This will make it easier to adjust as needed.
Dr. Rafael Pelayo recommends changing sleep schedules in 15-minute increments every 2 to 3 days.4 Following this system, you would need about 8 to 12 days to adjust your sleep schedule by one hour. It seems like a long time, but gradually making changes will help your body ease into the new schedule more smoothly than if you attempt to make the switch overnight.
Use a Nightlight
If you wake up at night to use the restroom, having a nightlight will make it easier for you to find your way without having to turn on bright lights or walk into any walls.
Also, if you know you tend to wake up at night feeling thirsty, keep water at your bedside to avoid a walk to the kitchen that can also cause your body to slip into morning-mode.
Try Artificial Light to Assist You with Waking Up
Certain Wi-Fi capable light bulbs can be set to turn on, or gradually get brighter, around the time you want to wake up. Some lights are really good at mimicking the gradual increase of light that tricks your body into thinking the sun has risen.
As the light filters through your closed eyelids, your body will naturally ease you out of sleep. If you don’t want to invest in a Wi-Fi capable light bulb, turning on the lights as soon as your alarm rings is another way to help kick the sleepiness and help you rise.
To hear from Dr. Bob Davari about the importance of sleep and to get more tips on how to improve your rest, listen to Episode 33 of our Podcast. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!
- “What Is Circadian Rhythm?” National Sleep Foundation, 2019, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-circadian-rhythm.
- “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651.
- Mann, Denise. “Alcohol and a Good Night’s Sleep Don’t Mix.” WebMD, WebMD, 22 Jan. 2013, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20130118/alcohol-sleep#1.
- Stewart, Kristen. “How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, 6 Feb. 2018, www.everydayhealth.com/sleep/insomnia/resetting-your-clock.aspx.