Sleep is essential to our physical and mental health, but a good night’s rest constantly escapes the majority of the population. Losing an hour of sleep to daylight saving time can be detrimental to our well-being for the following week, especially for those with psychiatric and mental health conditions.
Don’t dread springing forward. Look ahead to daylight saving time beginning this weekend with these tips:
Turn your clocks ahead the night before. Let sleep do the resetting for you. Don’t wait until Sunday afternoon to change your clocks. Set your car, oven, microwave, and alarm clocks ahead one hour on Saturday night, so you wake up feeling better aligned with the change. If you wait until after you wake up on Sunday to adjust, you’ll be more aware of the loss of an hour and more reminded of what time your body feels like it’s on.
Sleep in a dark, cool room with no distractions. Temperature and brightness have more effect on sleep hygiene than many realize. Body temperature naturally falls in the evening to help prepare you for sleep, so keep your bedroom on the colder side to fall asleep faster. Light is another factor that affects your sleep schedule and your internal body clock.
“Light suppresses the secretion of the sleep-inducing substance melatonin,” writes WebMD. “So it is important to expose yourself to the light during the waking hours as much as possible, and conversely, do not expose yourself to bright light when it is dark outside.”
A darker room makes it easier to fall asleep, so don’t let bright lamps, uncovered windows, or smartphones and TVs stand in the way of a good night’s rest.
Avoid caffeine late in the day. Because caffeine is a stimulant, once consumed, it interacts with neurochemicals in ways that make you feel more alert and awake for longer than you think. The caffeine in an afternoon cappuccino can affect you for more than 6 hours after you’ve had it, according to The National Sleep Foundation. Try forgoing a coffee or soda late in the day and opt instead for an herbal or decaffeinated tea to help prepare your brain and body for sleep.
Stick to a schedule and a routine. Humans are creatures of habit. A consistent sleep schedule and an evening ritual can help separate awake time from rest time and discern when it’s time to start winding down.
Set an intention in the evening to try and get a full night’s rest, and then block off 7 to 8 hours and aim for a semi-regular time to fall asleep and wake up. A relaxing nightly activity like yoga, meditation, journaling, or even a skincare regimen can quiet your mind and serve as great signals that it’s time to head to bed on your own schedule.
Though losing an hour of sleep is difficult, the extra evening sunlight is something to look forward to. It gives us the feeling of longer evenings, more natural light, and more opportunities for exercise and healthy habits outside. It also is a signal of springtime nearing, which is helpful for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. With sleep issues commonly afflicting those with anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, dementia, and more, try optimizing your sleep to better support your mental health, especially as the seasons change.