In these first few weeks of adjusting to the new daylight savings time, we may notice our sleep schedules are affected. Having one less hour can definitely throw off our bedtime routines, leaving us feeling tired and foggy throughout the day.
To help get you back on track, I’ve compiled some of my favourite strategies for ensuring that your nighttime routine leaves you feeling rested and refreshed the next day!
Go to bed at the same time each day, and wake up at the same time every day.
Constantly-changing bedtimes and wake up times can cause us to experience jet-lag type symptoms, leaving us feeling groggy and tired during the day. As hard as it may be, try to set an alarm at the same time every day, even if you don’t have to get up that early.
Avoid your phone and bright lights from electronics while you’re in bed.
There has been substantial research which suggests that blue light exposure emitted from electronics such as phones or computers negatively impacts the quality of our sleep at night and how alert we feel the following morning (Chang et al., 2015).To limit blue light exposure, try and make an “electronics-free” bedroom rule, leaving your devices elsewhere during the night. If you use your device for an alarm, consider placing it out of arm’s reach or purchasing an old-fashioned alarm clock instead.
Avoid all caffeine for 3-6 hours before bedtime.
It’s no secret that caffeine is a stimulant, and having caffeine too close to bed can keep you up at night. Caffeine takes approximately 6 hours to be fully processed through your body, so it is ideal to try and avoid caffeine a few hours before bed.
This includes tea, coffee, pop, and chocolate! Instead, opt for non-caffeinated, herbal teas such as camomile.
Make sure your room is dark and quiet.
Melatonin, a sleep hormone that also serves as an immunity booster, is produced when we are in darkness. To encourage the production of melatonin, try and eliminate all light from your room by using blackout curtains, closing the door if there is a light in the hallway, or removing/placing masking tape over any small power lights from electronics (e.g. on a TV). It may also be helpful to try wearing a sleep mask, which has the dual purpose of blocking light and inducing feelings of relaxation by adding gentle pressure to your face.
Hide the clock display.
I found this one to be the biggest game-changer for my sleep! Staring at the clock during the night counting down all of the minutes we aren’t sleeping adds to our overall anxiety and in turn, makes us significantly less likely to fall asleep. Not only that, but studies have shown that how much or how little we sleep doesn’t matter so much as how much we think we slept. Draganich and Erdal (2014) found that how much participants thought they slept either hindered or improved their performance on cognitive tasks. In other words – what we don’t know about our sleep may not hurt us!
Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.
Research has pointed at the connection between physical activity during the day and improved quality of sleep. A study by Sherrill et al. (1998) demonstrated the strong connection between physical activity and improved quality of sleep in participants who experienced sleep disorders. Physical activity is good for us in so many ways, and sleep is just yet another reason of why we need to incorporate physical activity into our routine! Try to aim for 20-30 minutes of physical activity per day for optimal benefit. However, try and make sure that this exercise occurs at least three hours before bed time, as exercise can be stimulating and make it difficult to sleep!
If needed, write down to-do’s before bedtime in a room that’s not your bedroom.
If you find that you’re a list person who tends to think of things they need to do, or buy, or say, in bed – chances are it’s going to make things quite difficult to sleep! Instead, write down lists of these things before bed, or write your thoughts in a journal. It’s important to do this in a place outside of your bedroom, so that your bedroom doesn’t become associated with all of these to-do’s and potentially difficult thoughts or feelings. After writing your lists or thoughts, leave the list in a room that is not your bedroom and return to your bedroom to sleep.
We hope these tips will be helpful for you in encouraging a good night’s sleep! Like any new habit, making changes takes time so it is always best to try and implement one or two of these changes at a time instead of trying to change them all at once. Attacking these habits slowly but surely ensures that they will become a long-lasting and natural part of your routine. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself credit for implementing these healthy habits.
By Kayleen Edwards, RP, MA
Chang, A., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J., & Czeisler, C. (2015). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. PNAS, 112(4): 1232-1237.
Draganich, C., & Erdal, K. (2014). Placebo sleep affects cognitive functioning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 40(3), 857-864.
Sherrill, D., Kotchou, K., & Quan, S. (1998). Association of physical activity and sleep disorders. Arch Intern Med. 158(17): 1894-1898