This past Sunday was easily one of the most undesirable days of the year – Daylight Saving Time. We all had to set our clocks forward, losing out on that coveted one hour of sleep. Even though it’s been several days, your body may still be adjusting to a new sleep routine, which is completely normal. You might be asking yourself, “Is losing one hour of sleep really that big of a deal?” As is turns out, the effects of Daylight Saving Time are more extensive than you think.
Your body’s sleep schedule is regulated by its circadian rhythm – an internal clock that tells you when to go to bed at night and when to wake up the following morning. As night approaches, your body starts to release a hormone called melatonin to prepare your body for a restful night. By morning, the melatonin levels decrease, letting your body know it’s time to wake up. Since most people tend to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, the circadian rhythm cycle adjusts itself accordingly.
When Daylight Saving Time begins, however, this sleep cycle is thrown off balance. Although the rest of the world is now operating off a clock that has been set forward by one hour, your body’s internal clock is still used to its old circadian rhythm. If you still feel extra sleepy when you wake up in the morning, it’s because your body is still adjusting to its new rest and wake times, and learning how to release melatonin to match this new cycle.
It’s important to get a good night’s rest on a regular basis (usually seven to nine hours per night) otherwise you put yourself at risk for developing cardiovascular disease such as hypertension and diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. If you’re still struggling with the time change, here are a few tips to help you restore a healthy sleep schedule:
- Set a bedtime alarm. Of course we’re all used to setting alarms in the morning, but setting a bedtime alarm can be helpful until your body learns its new nighttime.
- Avoid screens 30 minutes before bed. Electronic devices emit bright light that interferes with our body’s secretion of melatonin, which is a vital component of our sleep cycle.
- Don’t indulge in afternoon naps. It may be tempting to try and catch up on lost sleep during the afternoon, but it will also make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Instead, try going outside for some fresh air and natural sunlight, which can help your body adjust to its new circadian rhythm.