Get Set to Reset Your Circadian Clock After Daylight Savings

The end of daylight saving time (DST) this November means you get one extra hour of sleep during the time change. For most people, that’s the only good part! Turning the clocks back an hour might seem like nothing. But if your sleep schedule is out of whack, the longer mornings and shorter nights can leave you feeling groggy for weeks.

Prepare for the switch back to standard time by implementing a few healthy sleeping habits.

Why daylight savings messes with your sleep

In order to achieve a good night’s sleep, we have to align our internal circadian rhythms with the light-darkness cycle. The circadian rhythm is a “body clock” or pattern that repeats itself every 24 hours. Among other bodily processes, it dictates what time of day you feel sleepy and awake. Everyone’s circadian rhythm is slightly different depending on when you sleep, work and eat.

The light-darkness cycle is the same for everyone, and we have no control over it. This 24-hour cycle is dictated by when the sun rises and sets each day. Our days become incrementally “longer” or “shorter” throughout the year, but daylight savings instantly shifts the cycle by an hour. Thus, DST causes a drastic change in the light-darkness cycle we’re used to.

Twice a year, our circadian rhythms and the light-darkness cycle become misaligned. When we set our clocks forward an hour in March, the mornings are dark for longer while the evenings stay brighter. When we set them back in November, it gets light earlier in the morning but dark sooner at night.

Light and darkness influence when you feel sleepy and awake because darkness triggers melatonin production. The Monday after DST ends, you might be forced to wake up earlier than you’d like because the sunlight is streaming through your curtains one hour ahead of schedule. The shorter evenings means it’s already dark when most people are driving home from work. Early darkness can trick your body into feeling groggy long before it’s time for bed.

Most people have experienced the detrimental consequences of daylight savings on their sleep schedules. DST is associated with trouble falling asleep, frequent sleep disturbances and poor sleep quality. The change back to standard time may also cause daytime sleepiness, bad memory, decreased focus and poor performance at work. These symptoms are more prominent in people who consistently skimp on their standard eight hours of sleep every night.

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Tips for better sleep during daylight savings

Most people are less than thrilled about how daylight savings disrupts their circadian rhythm. But there’s good news—researchers have discovered multiple ways to stay well-rested and energized during the switch back to standard time (and no, it’s not more coffee!).

Here are some tips to help smooth the transition:

  • Spend time outside: Winter means shorter days and longer nights. Combine that with poor sleep, and you’ll struggle to stay awake at work. Dissipate grogginess and brain fog by building outdoor time into your daily routine. Sunlight decreases melatonin production, a hormone the body produces to prepare you for sleep. Taking a daily walk on your lunch break can give you enough of an energy boost to power through the rest of the day.
  • Take a natural sleep aid: Fall asleep and stay asleep by taking an all-natural sleep supplement. These supplements contain herbal ingredients that soothe anxious thoughts, boost serotonin levels and support the nervous system for a good night’s rest. Sleep supplements are best taken right before bed, and some are available in powder form that you can mix into water or a nightly cup of tea.
  • Develop a healthy night routine: Good sleep hygiene is all about the activities you do and the foods you eat leading up to bedtime. Avoid caffeine and alcohol within four hours of hitting the pillow. Both can make it hard to fall asleep or cause sleep disturbances later in the night. Additionally, turn your bedroom into an electronic-free zone and opt for calming rituals like a hot bath or journaling.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night: People with a consistent sleep schedule adapt more easily to DST. Crawl into bed at the same time every night and keep your alarm set at the same time every morning. Also, make sure you’re hitting the sweet spot of seven to nine hours each night. Resist the temptation to sleep in, even on the weekends. One night of oversleeping could throw off your circadian rhythm!

Don’t let daylight saving time take away your precious beauty sleep. The time change is no big deal for those who are prepared. Start incorporating these sleep tips in the weeks leading up to the time change so your circadian rhythm never skips a beat!

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