Spring is near, which means warmer weather, blooming flowers, and Daylight Saving Time. While we can all probably agree that the longer days are much welcomed, losing an hour of sleep can make for a difficult adjustment. Grogginess isn’t the only consequence: Studies show there are more traffic accidents and heart attacks immediately after the time change. That’s why it’s important to help your body adjust when the clocks spring forward, so you can go back to work Monday morning feeling refreshed.
Follow these five health tips for adjusting to the daylight savings time change on March 11th, then look forward to the long summer nights ahead!
1. Control your exposure to light
Too much exposure to artificial light at night suppresses your body’s melatonin levels and can affect not only your sleep, but also your thermoregulation and blood pressure. In the days leading up to Daylight Saving Time, you should get plenty of natural light exposure throughout the day, but when it gets dark outside, stick to mood lighting and avoid any harsh or bright lights. That way, you’ll signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.
2. Wake up and go to bed a few minutes earlier every day
Unlike in the fall, when you get an extra glorious hour of sleep after the time change, that first day after Daylight Saving Time is a doozy (especially if you already don’t get enough sleep). So plan at least a week ahead and set your bedtime for 10 to 15 minutes earlier each night. Likewise, set your alarm a few minutes earlier in the morning to train your body to wake up. That way when March 11th rolls around, the transition will be a cinch.
3. Limit your screen time in the evenings
Putting your phone away long before bedtime should already be part of your nightly ritual, but if it’s not, this week is a good time to start (March 9th was even the National Day of Unplugging). Staring at your device’s screen at night not only brings us back to the issue of light exposure mentioned above, but it also makes it harder to wind down. The results from clinical studies suggest you disengage from your devices at least one hour before bed to help get your mind off of daily stressors. Our suggestion? Try reading in bed instead. You’ll fall asleep faster and anxiety-free.
4. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol
Before you reach for that fourth cup of coffee, know this: It can take up to six hours for just half of caffeine’s effects to wear off. Drinking alcohol in the evening is associated with stimulating effects that can keep you up at night. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per night if you’re a woman or two drinks if you’re a male, and cut yourself off from caffeine once mid-afternoon hits.
5. Get exercise early in the day
Here’s one more reason not to skip your workout: A moderate bout of exercise (like walking or jogging) in the morning or afternoon can be hugely beneficial in helping you fall asleep faster and increasing the length of your sleep. Studies suggest the increase in body temperature followed by the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep faster, which will be helpful the night before Daylight Savings and beyond. Check out more ideas for making the most of your daily exercise.
Each year at this time, the debate over whether Daylight Saving is beneficial continues. While our circadian rhythms might act out in protest, these few simple tips can help you mitigate the side effects and start enjoying the longer days sooner. Talk to your Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups specialist if you have any questions about getting more shut-eye.
CATEGORIES: Active Lifestyles