How time changes affect your sleep

Get ready to lose an hour of sleep. The "spring" time change is upon us. Daylight saving time starts at 02:00 on Sunday, March 26, 2023. Of course, how the time change affects you depends on your personal health, sleeping habits and lifestyle.

Moving our clocks in both directions changes the key time signature for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, the circadian rhythm. As a result, our internal clock is no longer synchronized with our current day-night cycle. How well we adapt to this depends on several things.

In general, "losing" an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust than "gaining" an hour in the fall. It is similar to traveling by plane; if we travel east, we lose time. An "earlier" bedtime can cause problems falling asleep and more wakefulness at the beginning of the night. In the west, we fall asleep easily, but have a hard time waking up.

How long will it take you to adjust to the time change? A rule of thumb is that it takes about a day to adjust to an hourly time change. But this can vary greatly from person to person.

What can you do to reset your internal clock so that it adapts more quickly to the time changes? Your circadian rhythm is generated internally, but is influenced by your environment, behavior, and medications.

Light is the most important environmental factor. Light suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. So it's important to expose yourself to light during waking hours as much as possible -- and avoid bright lights when it's dark outside. For example, if you get up at night to go to the toilet, don't turn on the light. (A nightlight is OK.) Interestingly, specifically timed light therapy can help or slow down your sleep cycle, depending on when you use it.

Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe things you can do to create a sleep-friendly environment and increase your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping well. Basic sleep hygiene includes reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol, exercising several hours before bed, creating calming bedtime rituals to gradually relax yourself (for example, taking a warm bath), and wearing earplugs and eye masks, to name a few. to name. It is also important to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Food-wise, while there's no evidence that any particular diets actually affect your circadian rhythm, carbs tend to make it easier to fall asleep.

Drugs are unlikely to be needed for a simple one-hour time change. But in certain circumstances, such as traveling across multiple time zones, your doctor may consider prescribing a short course of sleep or anti-anxiety medications. Some of these medications can be addictive and negatively affect sleep quality, so they should only be used under the direct supervision of a doctor or sleep specialist.

Pharmacist Dirk
Founder Metis Supplements

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