Since we've 'fallen back' earlier this month, the days have gotten shorter and it's becoming darker earlier and earlier. Those lovely mornings, waking up to sunshine will be gone again until spring returns. All of this darkness has a way of messing with our internal clocks as natural light hugely impacts our circadian rhythm, also known as our sleep/wake cycle.
Have you noticed yourself getting tired early in the evening? Is it more difficult to get up early in the morning?
That's because, even if it's your normal time to wake up, the lack of natural light is confusing your body, making you feel extra sleepy and throwing our internal clocks out of sync with our circadian rhythm. It can be very disruptive and often happens with Daylight Savings Time. It's a feeling comparable to jet-lag.
Follow our six easy steps to help reset and sync your internal clock back up to your circadian rhythm:
1. Swap the cellphone for a book at bedtime.
An hour before you want to sleep, put down your phone, close your laptop and turn off the TV. The blue light that electronics emit is one of the most notorious artificial lights known for keeping us awake. By giving yourself an hour grace period before bed and reading instead of using electronics, it will help get your internal clock back on track and fall asleep more easily.
2. Make sure your bedroom isn’t too warm.
This can be tough in the fall and winter when it’s so tempting to go full hibernation-mode and layer on extra blankets but, you will have a better quality sleep if you’re not overheated, waking up sweaty and kicking off blankets in the night. All of these activities caused by over-layering your bed interrupt your REM cycle and disturb your sleep, making it harder to get the quality sleep you need in order to wake up on time and feeling rested.
3. Stick to a regular sleep/wake schedule.
Although often we do feel extra tired once Daylight Savings Time ends, it’s important to push through it and maintain your sleep/wake schedule until your body can adjust, just as you would recover from jet-lag. Your internal clock will adjust more quickly if you have a set routine that you stick to.
4. Upgrade your alarm clock.
In the summer, the sun wakes us up. It’s much easier and more pleasant to wake up to natural light than the sound of an alarm clock because exposure to sunlight boosts our serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness and well-being. Invest in a light therapy alarm clock to help you wake up more naturally and/or a light therapy box to use while you’re getting ready in the morning. It will improve your energy level and help to combat SAD.
5. Take a power nap.
If you start to feel tired in the late afternoon or very early evening, don’t fight it--allow yourself to have a short 20-30 min power nap. Your body will tell you what it needs; if a nap is what you require to feel energized again, take a nap but limit your snooze time to 30 min or less so you can recharge while not interfering your ability to go to sleep later.
6. Take a weekend trip to the cottage.
Beyond simply enjoying the beautiful fall colours, being away from the light pollution of the city is a sure-fire way to reboot your circadian rhythm and help you sync back up with your internal clock. Try to unplug and leave the electronics behind to maximize the soothing effects of nature.
By honouring our bodies’ internal clocks and syncing ourselves back up with our circadian rhythms, we can not only improve our sleep but also our moods and overall health and well-being.
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