“Spring Forward, Fall Back.” Twice a year we hear these reminders to adjust our clocks to the changing seasons and to make better use of the amount of natural daylight.
It was Benjamin Franklin in the late 1700s that proposed the concept of Daylight Savings Times (DST) but was not really implemented until 1895. It was found that as sunlight disappeared sometime around 4pm, and people were still out and about, the potential for accidents occurring in the dark was higher.
In the Northern Hemisphere, October reminds us of the upcoming shorter days as nature goes to sleep and March a signal that nature comes back to life and the hours of daylight grow longer. The Southern Hemisphere experiences the reverse but nonetheless, with similar impact. There are however varying studies on the use and effectiveness of DST around the world as the closer one is to the equator, the less noticeable the difference in light will be therefore skewing some data.
Here are some tips on adjusting to the seeming loss of an hour’s sleep.
1) Don’t change your bedtime! By keeping your regular bedtime, it will minimize the impact of the switch to daylight savings
2) Taking a short nap on the day following the change can help with the adjustment – but not a long one to interfere with night-time sleep.
3) A week leading up to the change to daylight savings, going to bed a little earlier can help you ease into it. Taking it easy on activities during that week as you adjust will also prove beneficial.
4) Enjoy the extra sunlight hours but promptly reduce all bright lights leading up to bedtime. Closing devices with bright screens and using reduced light bulbs closer to bedtime will trigger your melatonin production for a good night’s sleep. Using motion-activated lights if you need to get up in the middle of the night will not disturb your easing back to sleep.
5) Expect to be tired on Monday so be patient. Have a good hearty breakfast to keep you alert whether you are driving or using public transportation.
6) Maintaining constant sleep hygiene practices will significantly reduce any potential disruption to sleep patterns, moods and alertness. Making this a priority during the time change will yield great benefits.
7) Whenever possible, sleep in complete darkness but arrange your drapes or blinds so that as the sun rises, your room starts to naturally light up as well. Waking slowly by daylight will have a calmer effect than abruptly waking to a loud alarm clock. For those who, due to the change, need to wake before daybreak, there are devices that slowly add light to your room at a set time.
In summary, it’s all about daylight and how much you can squeeze into these seemingly endless winter months. Life can be stressful enough so you don’t need to add to it by fretting over an apparent loss of an hour. Making small adjustments, practicing good sleep hygiene habits, eating well, knowing when to slow down and know when to go at life hard can cut any real or perceived stress by 75%.
Make your bedroom the oasis it should be and not an extension of your office. Dress it up or dress it down, keep it clutter-free or filled with oxygen producing plants. Make it colourful or monotone but always keep it dark for sleep and greet the morning light gently but with excitement for a new day of possibilities.
Angela, Your Sleep Expert