Daylight savings makes one thing clear: most people are lousy sleepers. Normally, an hour shift in sleep should not make much difference.
But for many people, the annual spring time shift makes for a very hard week—or worse.
The incidence of heart attacks increases directly after the spring time change. So does the number of workplace injuries. And a review of 21 years of data showed that, on the Monday following the spring time change, the number of fatal traffic accidents increases significantly.
These negative events are even more likely to happen when that stolen hour is combined with poor sleep habits.
Examples of Poor Sleep Habits
Most sleep issues are the direct result of poor sleep habits, and can be addressed without medication or medical intervention. But as most of us know all too well, habits can be hard to break. Poor sleep habits include:
● Late-night screen time
● Alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime
● Caffeine after noon
● An inconsistent bedtime
● Lack of morning sunlight
Let’s dig into these a bit more.
Screen time: Most people have heard that they should turn off their screens before bedtime. But turning off the TV, the tablet, or the smartphone can be hard to do.
Minimizing screen time an hour or so before bedtime, however, is key to a good night’s sleep. If you’re struggling to make this change, you can go to the “settings” on your device and use the Night Shift mode, which filters out the device’s blue light—the primary wavelength of light that stimulates the brain.
Alcohol consumption: While some people notice that they are more likely to fall asleep after having a glass of wine or beer, alcohol generally leads to more fragmented, less restorative sleep later in the night.
Caffeine: Drinking coffee and other caffeinated/energy drinks in the afternoon can cause trouble falling asleep.
Bedtime: Try to keep a consistent bedtime at night, and develop a bedtime routine. If you find that you’re going to bed too late, try to shift the time by 15 minutes each night. And if you can’t fall asleep, stop trying to fall asleep. Just get up and do something relaxing—though avoid the screens unless you’re using Night Shift mode.
Sunlight in the morning: Force yourself to see sunlight right when you wake up in the morning. If there isn’t a natural sunrise, buy a 10,000 lux light box, which is designed for people with seasonal affective disorder. Just 30 minutes of exposure to bright light first thing in the morning helps the body adjust to the new schedule change, increases alertness, and improves mood.
The good news about the spring time shift is that it provides us an opportunity to focus more on our body’s natural circadian rhythms, and ultimately to sleep better. So give yourself some time to adjust this week, and challenge yourself to improve your sleep habits.