Time changes in the fall and spring affect each of us differently. For many folks, it can take circadian and sleep rhythms a week or so to transition. Here are five quick tips to help the body adjust to the time change.
Unless you’ve been hiding out on the dark side of the Moon, you should have have changed your clocks by now. Daylight Saving Time ended on Sunday, November 3 at 2 A.M. All clocks should be turned back one hour.
When the clocks turn back on Sunday, it may be an automatic switch for our iPhone, however, our bodies do not adapt as quickly. After all, clocks and calendars are made-made and Nature pays no heed.
As recent studies have shown, our bodies have a time-keeping machine that regulates sleep and metabolism!
While many of us are simply irritable at having our sleep rhythms disrupted twice a year, studies have shown that time changes lead to an increase in heart attacks, depression, and more. Whether you’re body-aware or not, sleep loss affects your immune system, cardiovascular system, and appetite hormones.
In some cases, the time shift can be dangerous. A 2001 National Institutes of Health study showed fatal traffic accidents increase the Monday after both time changes. Don’t drive sleepy!
Other than abolishing Daylight Saving Time, what can we do?
Photo credit: Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock
5 Tips to Adjust to Time Changes
- Go to bed and get up at the same time. Lack of sleep tells the body to store fat. It may be tempting to stay up later or change your habits, but it’s best to keep your sleep schedule consistent. The closer you stick to your normal routine, the faster your body will adjust to the time change. On the morning after the time change, we would recommend getting up at the same time. So, if you usually get up at 8 A.M., do the same even if the clock says 9 A.M. It’s benefitcial for most people to gain that hour of sleep.
Practice good habits before bedtime. Limit caffeine in the afternoon. Exercise earlier in the day, if possible. Raising your body’s core temperature can make it harder to fall asleep, so avoid heavy workouts within four hours of bedtime. Put your phone, computer, or tablet away an hour before bedtime. Electronics’ high-intensity light hinders melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleepiness. It stimulates your brain and makes sleep difficult the same way sunlight does. Turn off the television and pick up a non-suspenseful book. Take a warm – not hot – shower. Dim the lights. Rlax.
- Keep your dinnertime consistent. Or, even eat a little early. Our sleep cycle and our eating patterns affect each other. Don’t overeat. Try to eat more protein instead of carbohydrates. (This might seem like good everyday advice but it’s even more important during time changes.) Go shop for fish, nuts, and other sources of protein for dinner this week! Avoid the pasta.
- Get more light! Shorter daylight hours affects our mood and energy levels, decreasing serotonin. Make time to take a morning or early afternoon walk outside when the Sun is out. Try using a light therapy box or an alarm that brightens as you wake up.
- Take a short nap. Some folks may disagree, but if you’re starting to stack up sleepless hours, it’s safer and healthier for your body to give in to a nap than to continue without sleep. Make it a short nap to restore lost sleep hours; however, do NOT take a long daytime nap. It may help to go outside into the natural sunlight to cue your body and help retrain your inner clock.
Finally, it’s important to mention safety. With less daylight in the autumn, it’s important to be careful if you’re outside in darkness. For example, wear reflective clothing. Keep your house lights on. Walk your dog in well-lighted areas.
If you have a really tough time twice a year when the clocks change, may we suggest you start planning ahead for the next time change in spring (which can be tougher)? About two weeks before springing forward, go to bed and wake up 10 minutes to 15 minutes earlier daily. This helps your body make gradual shifts and more slowly adjust.
How do you adjust to time changes? We’d love to hear your thoughts