Fall back, fall behind?
April 01, 2021
Are you a dreamer who lives for the mountains’ first snow or the added comfort a winter duvet brings? There’s one sign of chilly beginnings that many of us welcome more than the rest – the first Sunday of April and its extra hour of sleep.
The end of daylight savings seems the perfect chance to squeeze in that extra sleep-in you never have time for, as time falls back and darkness creeps forward. However, this is often misconstrued; an extra hour overnight does not often equate to paying off sleep debts. The majority of us struggle to capitalise on this change to lighter mornings and a shift in your circadian rhythm – your internal sleep/wake cycle – can throw your snooze into a stumble for several days.
Our internal clock phases through periods of alertness and tiredness throughout the day, with external factors a major contributor to making it tick. Light exposure often acts as the pendulum, springing us into each cycle. There’s no doubt when the sun sets and the lights are cut, dozing off is easier. This is because light stimulates alertness and increased exposure when you sleep can result in a deficit of Zzz’s. On the contrary, a day soaking up vitamin D can also make sleep feel deeper and more satisfying at night.
However, falling back in hours doesn’t always mean your sleep cycle has to fall off track – there’s a few tips and tricks to keeping your circadian rhythm in beat.
Don't be late - That extra hour overnight can be full of temptations; bingeing that extra episode, pushing an evening rendezvous out a little later. Very few of us however, have a well-tensioned body clock that is able to adjust our rise time on the other side. Our internal clocks aren’t as easily tuned as the ones by our bedside, so avoid borrowing sleep from tomorrow.
Create a bedtime buffer - We should all be well versed at warding off those sleepless nights. We’re told regularly to avoid electronics, reduce our caffeine and alcohol consumption, and skip the gym as dusk approaches – but it’s often easier said than done. If there’s a few nights per year to listen to this broken record of common sleep tips, make it the lullaby of daylight savings time.
Tease out time - If your schedule allows for some flexibility, adjusting your body’s clock-off time can make all the difference when the hands wind back. About a week before daylight savings, start going to bed 20 minutes later. Your body will catch on and you’ll be in prime position for a regular wake time when the hour rewinds.
Good morning sunshine - The day before the clocks turn back is a great excuse to catch some rays. Light exposure keeps our sleep-wake cycle running smoothly and is a great way to regulate your internal clock. Spend the final afternoon of these sun-soaked evenings catching the last light and tee up an early walk for the first morning in your new time zone. This will set you up for a deeply satisfying sleep and spark naturally inspired alertness the following day.
Create a sleep haven - Like checking your smoke alarms, the to and fro into daylight savings time can serve as an ideal reminder to revamp your sleep space. Removing clutter can put your mind at ease, while removing sources of unnecessary light minimises the effects of the time transition. Check if your pillows or mattress need updating too. Replacing your pillows every year and your mattress every ten fosters a healthy, dry sleeping environment – particularly important for warding off winter nasties.
As we prepare for shrinking light in our days, we welcome the length in our nights; a time to cherish those extra moments in bed. Whether you choose to spend them sleeping in, with a morning coffee or cuddling with companions – every occasion in bed is an occasion well spent.