Preparing to Prevent Sleep Issues

In the weeks leading up to the end of Daylight Saving Time, many people may notice their sleep habits are already beginning to shift.  Shorter days and cooler, darker mornings and evenings may spark a sudden desire to begin planning for winter hibernation.  But before the clocks turn back on November 6, there are small daily adjustments you can begin making now that will help ease the transition and prevent insufficient quality sleep. 

As we age, getting enough sleep can be elusive.  Mid-night trips to the bathroom, hot flashes and 3 a.m. bouts of wakefulness can result in fewer restorative hours of deep sleep, creating a “sleep debt”. Insomnia has been shown in studies to contribute to weight gain, insulin resistance, reduced immune function, increased inflammation and elevated cortisol and cholesterol levels.   Disrupted sleep can also lead to mood changes, and can add to cognitive decline, muscle loss and an increased risk for heart disease. 

Despite these challenges, there are steps individuals can take to protect their quality of sleep, even with the upcoming clock shift.  Firstly, it’s important to create a consistent bedtime schedule and ritual.  Turn off devices an hour before bedtime, and unwind by reading, listening to music or enjoying a relaxing bath or shower.  The bedroom should be dark and cool, with no bright clocks or outside light or noise streaming inside. Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine later in the day, as they can both interfere with a full night’s sleep. 

In the three days leading up to the end of Daylight Saving Time, you can prepare your body by staying up an additional 15 minutes each night and pushing wake-up time ahead the same.  Because the time change occurs on Sunday, this shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish even while working.   You can also help reset your internal alarm by spending time outside in natural sunlight during the daytime – take a walk during lunch or first thing in the morning after sunrise to keep your circadian rhythm on track. 

If you are not able to go outdoors for natural sunlight, try sitting by a bright window while enjoying your morning coffee, or use a light therapy lamp during the day and dim lights in the evening.  With a proactive approach and a few simple habit changes, a loss of energy or dip in mood during the winter months can be avoided, or at least lessened.  Embrace the cozy, get outside while the sun shines to enjoy the foliage, and stock the pantry with some seasonal teas and hot chocolate to make the most of the changing season.