Posted on by Paula Gallagher
Sleep is something that is incredibly important for our health and well-being, but it can be affected by many different things, including stress, hormones and even the blue light from our televisions and phones. Another thing that can affect our sleep is Daylight Savings Time. This is when we change our clocks to "fall back" or "spring forward" an hour. This adjustment can throw off our internal clock, which can make it difficult to adjust to the new time change.
What is Circadian Rhythm?
Circadian rhythm is the internal clock that helps your body cycle through sleepiness and alertness. Certain forces can disrupt this natural rhythm, including daylight savings time, jet lag, blue light, and even shift work. Basically, anything that affects the natural light-dark cycle can confuse our natural circadian rhythm.
These changes can cause sleep disorders, and may lead to other chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. Fortunately, because many of the things that affect circadian rhythm are environmental and not genetic, individuals can adjust behaviors that may be causing sleep issues.
Tips for a Healthy Circadian Rhythm
Studies have shown a possible link between healthy circadian rhythms and coordination, cardiovascular activity, cognition, weight control, immune function and digestion. To help limit reduce any negative impacts, it is important to develop the following daily habits to support your sleep-wake cycle.
Get More Sleep
One of the most important things you can do is make sure you get enough sleep before the time change. If you are already struggling with getting enough sleep, this may be difficult, but it is important if you want to avoid the disruption or at least minimize its effects.
Stick to a Routine
You should also try and stick to your normal bedtime routine as much as possible in the days leading up to and after the time change. This will help your body adjust more easily to the new schedule. A consistent sleep-wake routine will train your master clock to help you avoid waking up throughout the night.
Get Sun First Thing in the Morning
Exposure to light in the morning triggers your brain to produce less melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone in your body that plays a role in sleep. The production and release of melatonin in the brain is connected to time of day, increasing when it's dark and decreasing when it's light.
The first thing you should do after your alarm sounds is open the blinds. If you have time, get outside and go for a walk or sip your coffee on the porch. Exposure to sunlight will help reset your internal clock for the day.
Avoid Light Near Bedtime
It is also important to avoid exposure to bright light in the hours leading up to your bedtime. This includes both natural light and artificial light from devices like phones, laptops and televisions. These lights can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, causing it to suppress melatonin production.
Start dimming lights about 2 hours before bedtime and resist scrolling through social media in bed. If you work a night shift or need to use screens in the evenings, you can wear glasses that block blue light or install a blue light filter app on your device.
Other ways to improve your sleep are through diet and nutrition. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, as both can disrupt your ability to fall asleep. Eat healthy foods that are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, as these nutrients help promote relaxation and encourage deep, restful sleep. Finally, exercise can also be beneficial for improving sleep quality. Exercise releases endorphins that help you relax and promote a good night's sleep. However, make sure you finish exercising at least 3 hours before bedtime so you have enough time to wind down before going to sleep.
Supplement with Melatonin
Consider using a supplement like melatonin if you are struggling with adjusting after Daylight Savings Time, shift work, or even jet lag. Melatonin helps regulate our circadian rhythm, which can be thrown off balance when traveling across different time zones or adjusting after a time change.
If you are still struggling with sleep, please refer to a health care practitioner .
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