This past weekend we turned the clocks ahead an hour, springing forward into daylight savings time. But changing our internal clocks is not as simple as pressing a few buttons and it can take time for our bodies to adjust. The younger you are the less likely you are to have any problems adjusting, but as we age our internal clocks become more resistant to change and can make things harder. Most people acclimate to the change in a day or two, but the rest of us may be left feeling sluggish and with sleep trouble. Here are some ways to help your body transition to the change.
Research has shown that traffic crashes and workplace accidents increase directly after the switch to daylight saving time each year. The change in time can easily lead to a disturbance in sleep patterns which can have a negative effect on performance, concentration, and memory. This makes easing the transition important, as the better our bodies can adjust the less sleep we will lose and the better we will be able to remain at our best in our daily lives.
Those with pre-existing sleep problems or conditions, including insomnia or sleep apnea have the most trouble transitioning to daylight savings time. Getting proper sleep when you have a condition working against your body is hard enough, and changes in the routine such as daylight savings time can lead to new challenges.
The body’s internal clock is known as a circadian rhythm and is a molecular cycle that releases chemicals to regulate when we feel awake and when we feel drowsy. This rhythm keeps time by the amount of blue light in the environment, as the sun goes down and blue light decreases the body starts the cycle towards sleep and as the sun comes up and blue light increases the body starts the cycle towards wakefulness. The problem lies in how there is no difference in when the sun rises and sets when daylight savings time starts or ends. Daylight savings changes the time we use for our schedules, not the time nature runs off of.
So while we know it is an hour later than it normally would be, our body cannot tell the difference and doesn’t automatically adjust. But there are some things we can do to help our bodies get used to the change in schedule. Waking up 15 minutes earlier each day for the days leading up to the clock change can aid in adjusting your internal clock by smaller intervals at a time than the full hour of the time change. Exercising earlier in the day will help advance your internal clock as the physical activity naturally leads you to tire sooner in the day than you would if you weren’t active. If possible, spend at least an hour in natural sunlight to aid the body’s reactions to blue light, limit eating heavily, and avoid using electronic devices (which give off blue light) for at least an hour before bedtime.
Avoid stimulating substances which could keep you awake such as tobacco and caffeine. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, dark, and free of distractions to promote the best sleep, and avoid napping for more than 30 minutes if you find yourself sleepy during the day.
With these tips it should be easier even for those with internal clocks that are resistant to change to adjust to daylight savings time. Do you have any tips for better sleep and adjusting to different schedules? Share them in the comments below!
By Samantha Dillon, DR Vitamin Solutions