Hello there and happy November, It's that time of year when the days are getting short, and this weekend, we "fall back" an hour, making our days even shorter!
Many folks may think an hour can't significantly impact our habits, behaviors, and health, but an hour of daylight change can disrupt our internal rhythms. Most of us have an inherent bias towards mornings (early birds) or evenings (night owls), and changing the morning vs. evening hours of sunlight can disrupt our internal clock.
According to Fred Turek, Ph.D. and director of the Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology at Northwestern University, "You might not think that a one hour of change is a lot, but it turns out that the master clock in our brain is pretty hard-wired." Our master clock is synchronized with the 24 hour light/dark cycle.
Daylight and sunshine trigger the wake-up and down-regulation processes in the mornings and evenings. A change in when this occurs can throw us off, leading our "master clock" to play catch up, and it may take a day or two for us to adjust.
As we lose daylight hours and fall off our typical routine, we can also fall into less than ideal behaviors: losing sleep, decreased motivation, mood changes, poor dietary choices, and changes to our social calendar. To limit the impact on these areas of our life, here are some suggestions to try and implement.
Tips to combat time change and limited daylight in winter months:
Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time.
Our bodies thrive with consistency; keeping sleep and wake hours regular within a 30-minute window each day will help the adjustment.
Maximize exposure to daylight in the morning hours to trigger your body to wake up and ramp up for the day.
Prioritize outdoor activity in the daylight hours.
If you have flexibility in your schedule, try to take lunch break walks or exercise mid-day to optimize sunlight exposure.
Supplement sunlight with light therapy.
Utilize a light for your desk or office to boost "sun" light exposure during waking hours. These can be purchased locally or online; look for "light therapy lamps."
Use a "sunlight" alarm clock rather than a sound alarm clock.
These alarm clocks simulate sunrise to help our internal master clock adjust to the lack of natural sunlight and ease the wake-up process.
As it gets darker earlier, limit screen time in the evening.
Utilize a night shift/night mode to adjust the display on the screens to warmer and dimmer lighting.
For more "sleep hygiene" tips, reach out; we want to help you sleep well.
"Fall back" gracefully, Nicole Todisco MacDonald
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