Earlier this month, we changed our clocks by springing ahead. This springtime ritual has always had me a little confused. It has never really made sense to me why we do this. The clinic staff and providers were talking about adjusting to this change and the various challenges some of our patients might face, particularly in the area of sleep. With daylight reduced in the morning and added at night, it can be confusing to our natural rhythm of sleep.
As most of us know, recuperative sleep is essential for good health – physical and mental. Now that it’s going to be staying lighter a bit longer, our bodies and our brains have to figure out how to deal with this. Both children and adults can find it harder to wake up and harder to get to sleep with this change, at least for a few weeks.
I recently read an article on the website MentalHelp.net. Robert Preidt, of HealthDay, writes, in general, that we shouldn’t mess with what time we get up or go to sleep, even during Daylight Saving Time (DST). In fact, he reports that we should attempt to keep our wake times and bedtimes the same, even with differences in light. He thinks this is as important for children as it is for adults. For example, if your child’s normal bedtime is 8:00 p.m., then bedtime should remain at 8:00 p.m. – even if it’s still light out. Adults may have a harder time with this. With the evening hours being lighter, it’s easy to lose track of time and suddenly the evening has gotten away from us. Bedtime, even for adults, can sneak up on us.
Preidt has several good recommendations for how to adjust to DST:
- For the first two weeks, get up 5-10 minutes earlier every two to three days
- Exercise 30-40 minutes in bright light daily
- Eat at least 3-5 hours before going to bed
- Stop drinking caffeinated beverages after noon
- No alcohol after dinner
- Put away computers, cell phones and other electronic devices approximately one hour before bed. This gives your mind a chance to calm down and prepare for sleep. He recommends reading, listening to quiet music or even watching TV to relax.
- If possible, do not use the bedroom as an office to do work
- Keep your children’s bedtime and wake-up time on the same schedule – do this for yourself, as well
What I am struck with by reading the above is that some of these suggestions might help us even if we’re not struggling with the change in time. Except for the very first suggestion, they all make sense to do on a regular basis. Since most of us have so much on our minds with family and work obligations, our sleep can be impacted at any time of the year. Perhaps there is a suggestion or two above that can assist you and your family.
Let me know if you try any of these recommendations. I always appreciate your feedback!
Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.