9 Tips to Adjust Your Sleep Cycle After Daylight Savings
March 5th, 2020
Daylight Savings Time (DST) has begun, which means you lost an hour of sleep this weekend–and you’re likely already feeling the effects! You might be a little groggier in the morning or feel the need to take a nap as afternoon rolls around. Or perhaps your whole day has shifted, and you’re waking up and staying up later than usual. You may even feel hungrier and find yourself craving sugary foods to stay awake!1
Regular sleep is essential to the proper function and health of your entire body. It helps regulate your immune system, maintain optimal hormone balance (including ghrelin–the hunger hormone), enhance brain function, and support emotional well-being.2 Lack of sleep can raise your risk for some chronic health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.3 A study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder also found an increased risk of car crashes for the first six days of DST, showing how even minor disruptions in sleep schedules can be hazardous.4
For these reasons, it’s important to reset your sleep cycle as quickly as possible to ensure you’re operating at peak performance. I’ve compiled this list of tips on how to adjust your sleep cycle after Daylight Savings to help get you back into a healthy rhythm!
1. Stick to Your Normal Sleep/Wake Schedule
Your circadian rhythm is the 24-hour internal clock that is responsible for feelings of drowsiness or alertness throughout your day. Normally, your circadian rhythm coincides with the cycles of daytime and nighttime, and works best when you wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. When this gets thrown off by external factors such as Daylight Savings Time, jet lag, or late-night binge watching your favorite TV show, you’ll notice natural dips in energy are much stronger–especially in the 1:00pm-3:00pm range.5
Instead of giving into that post-lunch nap to recover your energy, try sticking with your regular sleep/wake schedule as much as possible after DST. Wake up at the same time you normally would (according to the new time on the clock), and resist the afternoon nap, which will just make you stay up later at night. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is the best way to get your circadian rhythm back on track.
2. Cut Down on Caffeine and Sugar
Caffeine is a stimulant that delays your circadian clock by about 40 minutes, making it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get the kind of deep, restful sleep you need.6 It takes a long time for your body to process caffeine, so even drinking a caffeinated beverage 6 hours before bedtime can reduce your total sleep time by 1 hour.7
Sugar is also associated with lighter, less restorative, and more disruptive sleep overall.8 So while you may think that afternoon coffee or sweet treat is giving you the energy boost you need to carry you through the day, you will actually wind up more fatigued the next day from a lack of good quality sleep.
3. Exercise (Outside, in the Early Morning)
We all know exercise is important for our health, and it’s also critical for a good night’s sleep. A study published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity found that adults who got at least 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week reported better sleep and reduced drowsiness during the day.9
To reap the greatest benefits, move your workout outside during the early daylight hours. This will expose you to natural morning light, which is optimal for resetting your internal clock.10 Getting out in the sun will also give you an extra dose of Vitamin D. Low serum levels of Vitamin D are associated with poor sleep quality, more disturbances in sleep, and sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea.11
4. Develop Bedtime Rituals
Having a ritual that you perform every night before bed will help you destress from the day mentally and physically. Plus, your body will learn to respond to the physical cues that indicate it’s time to sleep.12 Whether it’s light stretching, reading by a dim lamp, meditation, a warm bath, or sipping on some herbal tea, a calming bedtime ritual may be just what you need to restore a healthy sleep rhythm.
5. Turn Down the Thermostat
As your body prepares for sleep, your core temperature drops. Studies have shown that sleeping in a room that is 60-67°F induces the body’s natural sleep state, and temperatures above or below this range can inhibit the length and quality of your sleep.13 So if you’re someone who prefers sleeping in fuzzy pajamas under a pile of blankets, you might benefit from turning down the thermostat.
6. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed
When your normal sleep schedule gets interrupted by DST, you may be tempted to reach for a nightcap to help you fall asleep. However, that glass of wine might be doing you more harm than good. While alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it robs you of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the most restorative state of sleep. Without adequate REM sleep, you will be drowsier and less able to concentrate the following day.14
7. Go Camping
Here’s a fun way to quickly adjust your sleep cycle–go camping! Our ancestors were much more in touch with the cycles of day and night because there was no electrical lighting to keep them up at unnatural hours. They rose with the sun and slept when it got dark. A weekend spent camping puts you back in touch with the earth’s (and your own) natural rhythms, and has been proven to rapidly reset your circadian clock.15
8. Limit Blue Light Exposure
Blue light from light bulbs, phones, tablets, and computers increases the release of cortisol in the brain, which makes us more alert, and inhibits the production of melatonin, which is needed to fall asleep.16 A study found that people reading an eBook at night experienced less melatonin production, a 90-minute delay in their circadian clock, and reduced alertness the next morning compared to those who read a print book.17
To limit blue light exposure, I recommend turning off or dimming lights as much as possible when the sun goes down. You can also put amber light bulbs in a few designated lamps you only use in the evening. Amber bulbs emit a different frequency of light that does not interfere with your circadian rhythm.
In addition, experts recommend unplugging and powering down your electronics two hours before bed. If you work late or find it challenging to adhere to this two-hour downtime, my personal favorite sleep tool is a pair of amber glasses! The amber-colored lenses block blue wavelength light from electronic devices, supporting healthy melatonin production and making it easier to fall asleep at night. Since I’ve started using them, I’ve seen a huge difference in my ability to fall and stay asleep each night.
9. Supplement with Magnesium
Magnesium is essential to everything brain-related. In addition to supporting the health of your nerves themselves, magnesium also helps with occasional head tension & discomfort and supports a relaxed mood.
I find taking a magnesium supplement every evening before bed helps me unwind from the day’s stresses and fall asleep peacefully.
Incorporating these healthy sleep habits into your routine will help normalize your circadian rhythm and come with the long term benefits of improved sleep, including reduced risk of chronic illness, enhanced mood and cognition, and having the energy you need for anything life throws your way!