Are you worried about losing an hour of your precious sleep this month? You’re not alone. When Daylight Savings Time rolls around each year, you’ll hear lots of people talking about its ill effects on their lives. And it’s not just something you can blame on “laziness” or overworked colleagues needing their full eight hours of sleep per night. Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for everyone. Research shows that not getting enough sleep can lead to a wide range of health issues, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, mental health problems, and more.
So, what can you do about your sleep this month? You can’t just not participate in Daylight Savings Time. Your coworkers likely wouldn’t be thrilled if you showed up to work an hour late on March 14 and credited this delayed arrival to healthy lifestyle changes. Instead, here’s how to “hack” your schedule so you can come out on the other side of Daylight Savings this month feeling healthier, more energetic, and better rested than ever.
Daylight Savings Time: Serious Consequences
Even though it was never intended to be a research subject, Daylight Savings Time has given us access to the biggest study in sleep deprivation of all time. Research has found that every spring when we lose this hour of sleep, heart attacks spike, and traffic accidents do too. Research similarly finds that heart attacks conversely plummet when we gain an hour of sleep in the fall, as do traffic accidents.
These statistical differences are based on a multitude of factors. For starters, Daylight Savings Time disrupts your circadian rhythm. Your 24-hour clock runs on a cycle between sleepiness and alertness, and most individuals find that their top “sleepy” periods fall between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. According to Dr. Allison Siebern, Associate Director of the Insomnia & Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Stanford University, the best time to sleep for the best ratio of NREM and REM sleep is 7.5 hours, starting between the hours of 10 p.m. and 12 a.m.
If you have been ignoring your biological cycles and losing sleep, you’re putting your health at risk. As mentioned above, sleep deprivation can lead to health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, immune issues, cancer, and reproductive issues. In other words, the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.
Working Around Daylight Savings Time
Daylight Savings Time isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so you must learn to make adjustments to your sleep schedule and life. Here are four Daylight Savings Time workarounds to ensure that you’re getting adequate sleep no matter the conditions.
- Limit Alcohol
You’ve likely experienced this scenario before. You have one too many drinks one evening, fall asleep for an hour or two, and then find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night or tossing and turning until your alarm goes off. Alcohol sedates the brain, but it doesn’t allow you to experience deep, restful sleep. Instead, your sleep becomes choppy and fragmented—with almost no REM sleep at all—leaving you with lots of brain fog the next day, even if you managed to get eight hours in bed.
If you’re drinking cocktails filled with sugar or caffeinated mixers, these ingredients can exacerbate your already poor sleep quality.
So, around Daylight Savings Time (and for your longer-term sleep habits), learn to limit your alcohol intake before bed.
- Adjust Your Diet
Just like drinking alcohol before bed can disrupt your sleep, eating too close to bedtime and eating the wrong things before bedtime can worsen the quality of your sleep. If your schedule forces you to eat close to bedtime, make sure not to eat too much. The digestive process requires a lot of energy and trying to sleep while your body is trying to work can lead to indigestion and loss of sleep.
Since you may want to get to bed an hour earlier to make up for the hour lost for Daylight Savings, have your dinner earlier as well.
- Plan Your Workouts
Sometimes you get out of the office late, then you run to the gym, then by the time you get home, you only have an hour before you need to be in bed. However, if you are attempting to improve your sleep habits, you shouldn’t do this. There’s a direct correlation between exercise and sleep. If you exercise within two hours of going to bed, your elevated body temperature can prohibit restful sleep which can start an unfortunate chain reaction. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you can’t sleep, and then you can’t exercise the next day because you’re too tired.
To protect both your exercise and sleep routines, keep the workout to the morning or, at the latest, the late afternoon or early evening. Adjust your exercise to account for Daylight Savings and try a morning workout so that you have no chance of ruining your sleep.
- Turn Off the Alarm
Yes, it might sound like a bad idea to turn off your alarm as you attempt to regulate your sleep schedule. What if you oversleep? But the best, most natural way for you to help your body adjust to Daylight Savings Time is by using natural sunlight to align your internal body clock with the solar clock. Getting light early in the morning is key. Are you able to use the sunlight to gently nudge yourself awake? If you have a window in your bedroom, keep the curtains open and allow the sunlight to wake you up naturally, instead of the alarm.
If this doesn’t seem realistic for your schedule, still aim to get some extra sunlight first thing in the morning. Try drinking your morning coffee or exercising outdoors in the daylight. This will also help you wake up in the morning for Daylight Savings because you’ll experience a boost in vitamin D that helps you fight fatigue.
The Bottom Line
While Daylight Savings can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule, making these four adjustments in your waking hours will ensure that you remain well-rested. Sleep is incredibly important to your physical and mental health. Don’t let the stressors of the modern world—from tech to demanding schedules to Daylight Savings Time—ruin your sleep. These stressors could have fatal consequences. Monitoring your diet, exercise schedule, and morning routine can make all the difference to your sleep quality.
Need a little help optimizing your schedule to get enough rest? Talk to an Arootah life coach today!