Maintaining good sleep habits through time change is a twice-yearly struggle for many of us.
It’s very common to struggle with sleep or feel like you don’t get enough rest. The clocks jumping back an hour each November doesn’t help, and effects can linger for weeks, even months after.
Keeping a regular bedtime and wake up time is a key component of good sleep hygiene. Our body clocks are programmed to go to bed at a certain time every night. If you go to bed at different times, you effectively give yourself jetlag and end up having more trouble falling asleep and waking up.
Even though time change gets in the way of this, Alberta voters recently voted against abolishing the biannual move.
Maintaining Good Sleep Habits Through Time Change
One strategy you may consider is preemptively changing your bedtime in small increments ahead of the change. This makes the shift easier on your body clock.
Beyond this, to maintain good sleep habits through time change, make sure you’re starting off with strong sleep hygiene practices in the first place.
Just about everything you do during the day can impact how well you’re going to rest that night. So, the most important thing to understand is your role in how you sleep. Eating, drinking, moving, relaxing, using technology – these are significant daily activities for most of us and each has a different impact on, and role in, sleep.
To fully appreciate everything that affects our sleep and why it’s a challenge to maintain good sleep habits through time change, let’s first explore what sleep is and how it works.
Sleep is a state of relaxation, reduced metabolism, and relative insensitivity to stimulation. Everyone needs sleep to recuperate mentally and physically. But the amount needed to fully get these benefits varies from person to person.
Every evening our bodies produce a hormone, known as melatonin, that causes us to feel sleepy and eventually doze off. However, bright lights and blue light, such as that from smartphone and TV screens, suppress melatonin production, impacting sleep quality and duration. For this reason, it’s best to put your devices away at least an hour before bed, as hard as it may be, especially when bedtime comes an hour earlier in the spring.
The Impact of Time Change on Sleep Habits
While there’s no magic number when it comes to sleep, adults typically require 7-9 hours per night to feel rested and refreshed.
There are several indicators of good sleep you can watch for: sleeping for at least 85% of the time you are in bed, falling asleep within 30 minutes of lying down, waking up no more than once per night, and falling back asleep within 20 minutes if you do wake up.
Because every action during the day can play a role in your ability to sleep well, there are many easy things you can do to set yourself up for a good night’s rest. It can be hard to do this, especially on weekends, but it’s important to schedule social activities around sleep – not the other way around.
And, when you do have a bad sleep, stick to your normal wake up time, even if you’re still tired, to keep your body clock on track.
It’s important to build an association between being in bed and sleeping, essentially training the mind and body not to be awake in bed. This means you should only use your bed for sleep and sexual activity. Do not eat, watch TV, work, or use your devices in bed.
Go to bed only when you are ready to sleep and get out of bed if you aren’t able to fall asleep or if you wake up for more than 20 minutes. When you get up, do something relaxing for half an hour or so, such as reading or listening to a podcast. Avoid screens and being overly active, then return to bed when you feel ready.
The longer you’ve been awake, the easier it is for you to fall asleep at night, meaning it’s generally best to avoid napping. Though this can be hard during time change, a daytime nap can offset your body clock and delay the onset of melatonin production in the evening. As hard as it may seem sometimes, napping isn’t a good sleep habit.
We’ve scratched the surface here on maintaining good sleep habits through time change, but there’s a lot more to it than we are able to discuss in a single article. In Taking Control of Sleep, our online wellness education module, we cover everything you need to know to have the best quality sleep every night, time change or not.
It only takes 20 minutes to invest in acquiring the knowledge you need to take control of your sleep and set yourself up for success each day!
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