(Editor’s Note: Mandy Faulkner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, who graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. In this column, Mandy shares relevant information on the importance of a good night’s sleep. When Mandy is not busy with her nutritionist career, she and her husband own and manage Stittsville’s Market at the Barn.)
It’s that time of year again! The time we set our clocks ahead by one hour to spring ahead into daylight savings. While losing one hour may not sound like a big deal, this time change can have a big impact on sleep quality for people of all ages. There are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle that helps our body prioritize functions based on the time of day or night. Our internal clock (our circadian rhythm) is determined by the light/dark cycle and helps control our daily schedule for sleep and wakefulness. So when the sunrise and sunset times adjust during daylight savings time, our exposure to light and dark changes, therefore impacting our natural sleep-wake cycle.
Instead of letting your sleep suffer, tool yourself with the following sleep hygiene tips and tricks for not only surviving daylight savings time, but supporting your circadian rhythm and healthier sleep all year round.
- Get bright (blue) light exposure during the day by opening the blinds/ curtains in the morning and getting outside for morning daylight. If you’re working from home, try setting your desk up next to a window.
- Reduce bright (blue) light into the evening by using blue light blocker glasses or filters on devices in the evening, and avoiding devices at least 90 minutes before bed as this will help with our natural melatonin (sleepy hormone) production.
- Reduce and/or manage stress throughout the day, including avoiding stressful movies/TV shows/books before bed. Stress causes our cortisol (stress hormone) levels to increase when they should be falling. Moving your body during the day with regular exercise will help with stress and also support better sleep.
- Make sleep a priority. Set a bedtime routine and follow it – even on the weekends. As tempting as it is to stay up late every Friday and Saturday night, having a predictable bedtime, will help with your natural melatonin production. A regular bedtime and routine is also super important for kids.
- Eat to fuel your body. While we know that some foods, such as those that contain caffeine and alcohol may disrupt sleep when consumed later in the day, others, such as walnuts, pistachios, chamomile tea, and cherries, can actually support sleep. It’s also important to ensure that you are eating enough throughout the day. When we don’t consume enough, it’s like forgetting to put gas in the car, eventually you run out of fuel. Also be sure to include protein, healthful fat, and fiber with every meal and snack as this will keep blood sugars balanced throughout the day, which also helps at bedtime.
As daylight savings time begins and ends, whether we are gaining an hour or losing one, it all has an impact on our natural sleep-wake rhythms as the amount of morning darkness and evening light shifts. Help make the transition easier by keeping on track with good sleep hygiene and try to start your adjustment early. Begin a few days ahead and adjust bedtimes 15 minutes earlier (in Spring) or later (in Fall) than usual. Continue adjusting your sleep schedule by 15 minutes per day over the course of 4-5 days. By the time the clocks adjust, your household’s sleep schedule will be close to on track and the impacts should be lessened.
If you find that you and/or your kids are having a hard time adjusting, or regularly have trouble with sleep and you’ve tried the above and are thinking the next step is sleep aid, head over to my blog here where I wrote more about how to get a good night’s sleep.
Here’s a recipe to enjoy as St. Paddy’s Day is fast approaching:
2 cups of kale or spinach
1/2 cucumber (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juiced)
1 pear (peeled and chopped)
1/2 tbsp ginger (grated)
1 tbsp fresh ground flax seed
3 tbsp hemp hearts
3/4 -1 cup water
2-3 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!