Even though we gain an extra hour of sleep this weekend, it doesn't necessarily mean we'll feel more rested come Monday morning.
Daylight Savings Time officially ends at 2 AM on November 6th. This means we'll turn the clocks back one hour. "Falling back" seems great, but even a seemingly small one-hour shift can affect sleep for up to a week. The time change disrupts the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, and people may experience trouble falling asleep and increased nighttime awakenings. Dr. Yvonne Harrison of Liverpool John Moores University in England concluded that short sleepers (those who log under 7.5 hours a night) and early risers have the most trouble adjusting to the new schedule. This is because 7 AM becomes 6 AM, which feels even earlier for early birds.
Not only are the mornings different, but so are the nights. The days become shorter and it starts to get dark out by 5 PM. When it comes to sleep, light is very important. Your body's internal clock is dictated by light. You're wired to feel sleepier when it's dark and feel alert when it's light out. When it's dark out, your body starts to produce melatonin, which is associated with the onset of sleep. When it gets dark while you're still at work, you may start to feel sluggish due to melatonin production. Sunlight, in particular, is very important in the getting a good night's sleep. Vitamin D is crucial for serotonin production, and serotonin is involved with many functions of our sleep-wake cycles. Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, which is in shorter supply during the fall and winter months. Research has also shown that lack of sunlight can increase feelings of depression and fatigue. In serious cases, the darker days and colder weather could cause Seasonal Affective Disorder, which has been linked to reduced sleep efficiency and less slow-wave sleep. In order to boost mood, try to get as much sunlight as possible. Take a 15-minute break in the afternoon and go for a walk outside. If you can't leave your desk, try sitting by a window. Studies have shown that sitting by the window increases productivity.
The time change may make you feel tired, but it isn't all bad for sleep. In fact, the end of daylight savings is the seasonal signifier that colder weather is on the horizon. Cooler air actually helps you sleep better. On those chilly autumn nights, you'll probably be more comfortable in bed than on those hot and humid summer nights. Sleep experts say that cooler temperatures promote the body's natural deep sleep process.
Although DST impacts sleep, the effects are not permanent. The good thing about our bodies is that they learn to adjust. However, if you'd like the speed up the adjustment process, you can try these tips.
1. Go to sleep a little earlier a few days leading up to the clock change
2. Use the Eight Smart Alarm to wake you up at your lightest stage of sleep, so you don't feel groggy
3. Maximize deep sleep by creating a quiet and relaxing bedroom environment
4. Exercise in the morning to get in the habit of waking up and working out
When the clocks fall back this weekend, you have the opportunity to reboot your sleep cycle. Think of it as a clean start. In order to get the best night's sleep, you need to stick to a consistent sleep-wake schedule. If your previous schedule was all over the place, this is your time to make a change and get the sleep you need (and deserve).