How to help your body clock spring forward
On 30th March, the clocks go forward one hour. Of course, most of us enjoy this sign that summer has begun and are happy to sacrifice the extra hour in bed for the benefits of lighter evenings. After all, we think, can one night with an hour less sleep really do much harm?
Unfortunately, the answer is that it can do, particularly if you are already sleep deprived, have trouble falling asleep, or generally go to bed late. Indeed, studies have shown that people are more likely to suffer from accidents, injuries and even inflammatory disease in the days after the clock change.
The change to daylight saving time means our internal body clock, which is regulated by light, is shifted off balance. As many people know, it is generally easier, even if very tired, to stay up for an hour later than normal than to wake up an hour earlier than one would like.
So for this reason, the spring clock change is harder on the body than when the clocks go back in the autumn. If you combine this with the typical modern insomniac who is chronically sleep deprived from overwork, stress, excessive use of stimulants, staring at computer screens late at night etc., then you have a recipe for lots of unhappy and unproductive people starting work first thing this Monday morning!
So, if you are in the groups most likely to be affected – if you are a night owl, have trouble getting to sleep, have a long standing sleep problem or are under a lot of stress at the moment, what can you do? The last thing you want is to increase your sleep ‘debt’, so following these steps should help:
Re-set all your clocks on Saturday night.
This allows your brain to get used to the change and avoids you completely forgetting and annoying friends or family by being an hour late for engagements, something I have been known to do! (Thankfully, many modern devices change automatically).
Try going to bed a little earlier than normal for the week preceding the clock change.
Drastic changes to your sleeping patterns are not advised, but an extra 20 minutes or so in bed will help your body to adjust to the time change and may help with long term issues as you will be giving yourself more time to wind down.
Avoid stimulants the weekend the clocks go forward, and eating late at night as well.
Most people know that tea and coffee are stimulants and so avoid them late in the day, but chocolate, cocoa, sugar and alcohol can all disrupt sleep, so should be consumed with caution by anyone with sleeping issues. Some caffeine sensitive individuals do best by cutting out caffeine entirely after 1pm.
Spend some time outdoors in the daylight on Saturday and Sunday
Natural light is the best regulator of your body’s circadian rhythms (its ‘internal clock’), and gentle exercise will help as well. Hopefully the weather is good and the sunshine will boost your vitamin D levels as well.
Valerian, in particular, is good for any disruption to the sleep/wake cycle, which is why it is also the supplement to try for jet lag or shift work. You could try taking our valerian preparation, Dormeasan, for a few days before and after the clock change.
I hope these things help you feel alert and energetic by Monday morning and not begrudge your ‘lost’ hour in bed! For those with chronic sleep problems, it is wise to look at our advice for general good sleep habits here: www.avogel.co.uk/health/sleep/hygiene-tips/
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