Surviving Shorter Days – The Shift from Daylight Saving time
With the change of season to autumn comes the end of Daylight Saving Time and increased hours of darkness. The cyclical changes of springing forward and falling back to adjust to Daylight Saving Time can be a challenge for many. Despite it only being one hour, the disruption to our internal clock can affect sleep, mood, appetite, and energy, to name a few. When it comes to dealing with the time change, though, there’s no need to be in the dark. Here are some tips and strategies to ease the transition.
What is Daylight Saving Time?
Since 1918, North Americans have been adjusting their clocks to allow for increased hours of daylight. This practice was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in the late 1700s and was eventually implemented during World War I as a way to conserve energy use. Despite numerous motions to abolish it and mixed opinions as to its need, the practice remains in place today.
How does the end of Daylight Saving Time affect me?
One of the biggest impacts of Daylight Saving Time on our health has to do with the disruption to our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is an important and sensitive internal clock that affects a host of chemical signals and hormones that dictate everything from sleep/wake cycles and appetite to mood and mental health. The effects on our brain and body from even a small interruption in our circadian rhythm are well-documented. Evidence links habitually short sleep or circadian desynchronization to conditions such as weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, as well as decreased cognitive performance.Ensuring that we maintain healthy sleep habits is a crucial way to support the body through the end of Daylight Saving Time.
How to make the most of the change
This can be an excellent time to take advantage of early morning hours – or at least one. If your body is used to naturally waking up at the same time, go with it instead of falling back asleep for an extra hour.
This can be a great way to make the best use of the morning. Early morning exercise has been shown to improve focus throughout the day.. Research also shows that exercise, particularly early in the day, can help your body’s circadian rhythm, while late night physical activity can be stimulating and delay restful sleep.
Make time for sleep
Remember that with an earlier morning, ideally comes an earlier bedtime. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35–40% of the adult US population report sleeping less than 7 hours on weeknights, which has been experimentally demonstrated to result in cumulative deficits in behavioural alertness and attention.
To make the transition a bit easier, start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier beginning a week before the official change. Incrementally increase that time as the week progresses so that come the day of the time change, you’ve already adjusted.
Dietary choices can also impact our sleep and ability to adapt to the time change:
- Reduce your caffeine intake and keep it to the morning hours.
- Include foods such as free-range eggs, salmon, turkey, nuts, and seeds. These foods are naturally high in the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin that can help with sleep and mood.
- Avoid refined or simple carbohydrates such as alcohol and sugar in the evening. Studies have shown that these can interfere with healthy sleep patterns.
A handful of nutrients can help with the transition to shorter days and support adjustment to changes in sleep, less daylight, mood, and general well-being:
- Magnesium – This essential mineral is involved in well over 100 biochemical reactions in the body and can act as a natural muscle relaxant, helping support sleep and reduce anxiety. It also plays a critical role in brain function and mood.
- Melatonin – This natural human sleep hormone works with the body’s internal cycles to reset the “biological clock” and re-establish circadian rhythms.
- 5-HTP – A precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP also acts as a sleep aid and provides support for emotional well-being.
- Valerian – This traditional herb is used to help promote sleep.
- L-Theanine – This amino acid found in green tea helps support mental calmness and relaxation.
Fall and winter are naturally a time of hibernation and for slowing down. Although we can’t crawl into a cave and sleep for a season, we can make use of these shorter days to allow for increased rest and recuperation. If possible, give yourself some time to slow down, take advantage of the darker days to schedule in sleep as a priority, and try to stick to routine sleep and wake times. These practices, coupled with regular exercise and the right foods, can ease the transition and make the shorter days more manageable.
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