With Daylight Savings quickly approaching, Michael Neeb, PhD, director of Mercy Sleep Services encourages everyone to be prepared to lose an hour of sleep when it comes time spring forward.
The human circadian system, or the internal ‘human clock,’ operates on chemical rhythms that tell your body when to sleep and when to be awake. These rhythms develop out of consistent schedules, and can be difficult to change. Even the one hour change to Daylight Savings time makes a noticeable, and sometimes difficult, transition for many people.
Remember, if your normal bedtime during the winter months was 11 p.m., after the start of Daylight Savings Time, your body will feel like it’s only 10 p.m. at the “new” 11 p.m. bedtime. This may cause problems falling asleep or awakening in the morning.
To help with the adjustment process, dim the lights in your environment in the later part of the evening. This promotes the release of melatonin, which initiates a sense of sleepiness. Also, even though you may not feel like getting up and going, keeping a strict morning wake time will help. And if possible, expose yourself to as much sunlight as possible during the early morning hours.
Although often disregarded, proper sleep is a key element in living a healthy lifestyle. Poor sleep can lead to a variety of health problems, especially if you choose to ignore it. Not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per day can result in insomnia, fragmented sleep at night, and daytime fatigue and sleepiness. Poor sleep can also cause a disturbance of appetite hormones, which can then lead to weight gain and obstructive sleep apnea.
To stay alert throughout the day, try these sleep tips:
- Maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule, even on the weekends. A fixed timetable helps your body regulate its sleep pattern and get the most out of the hours you sleep. Long naps can dramatically affect the quality of your nighttime sleep. If you have to take a nap, try limiting it to 15-20 minutes in the late morning or early afternoon.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime ritual prior to bedtime. Being “exhausted” is not the same as being “sleepy” and they often need to be teased apart. Physical exhaustion requires time to relax and unwind, which should be done prior to heading to bed for sleep.
- Exercise regularly. Even moderate exercise can help you sleep better. Set a goal for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, three times a week or more. However, you want to make sure you finish at least three hours before bedtime. Exercise raises body temperature which interferes with sleep onset.
- Watch what you drink and eat before bedtime. Avoid caffeine after 5p.m. and if you are hungry, eat small snacks, not large meals. While alcohol might help you feel sleepy, it ultimately ruins your sleep during the second half of the night.