This weekend marks a return to sunlight time for many Canadians, with clocks springing forward one hour.
For a lot of, it also means a lack of sleep and a disruption of our circadian rhythms, our body’s natural way of keeping track of day and night.
“We have now more evening light exposure and more darkness within the morning. And so fundamentally that can shift our circadian rhythm,” Dr. Elliott Lee, a sleep specialist on the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of CBC’s The Dose.
“It will make it slightly bit harder to go to sleep the next day and leads to a delay in our sleep phase over time.”
People will often struggle after the time change due to either the misalignment of our circadian rhythms or that extra hour of morning darkness, Lee said.
“If the timing of sleep will not be aligned with our own circadian rhythms, then each the standard and the amount suffer,” he added.
Getting more light later within the day may also make a difference to our sleep. But experts say making small, manageable changes to your sleeping schedule will make it easier to get some shut-eye.
Ideally you’d go to bed slightly bit earlier each night the week before the clocks move forward, says Azadeh Yadollahi, senior scientist on the University Health Network’s KITE Research Institute and an associate professor on the University of Toronto.
So what else can we do to organize for the time change — and adjust to it?
Go to bed early
On the Saturday night before daylight time, “attempt to go to bed early and specifically have a lightweight dinner,” Yadollahi told John Gaudi, guest host of CBC’s Labrador Morning.
Getting outside Sunday morning after the time change is very vital, said Yadollahi.
“Go for a walk — anything that you could do to do exercise and get exposure to sunlight will help with adjusting to the brand new change,” she said.
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You can too make changes to your bedroom to manage your light exposure, said Jennifer Bond, a registered respiratory therapist and clinician at The Snore Shop in Saint John, N.B.
“You possibly can trick your body into adjusting with the sunshine by closing the curtains and making it dark so you possibly can go to sleep earlier — and opening the curtains earlier within the morning with the sunshine and helping your body get up,” said Bond.
Lee also advises taking it easy as much as you possibly can in the times following the switch.
“If you have got that luxury, attempt to make work slightly bit easier, not scheduling a heavy work day,” he said.
Have good sleep hygiene
Paying particular attention to our sleep hygiene across the change can be helpful, said Lee.
“Sleep hygiene, fundamentally, is just habits that we are able to do to coach ourselves to be a greater sleeper,” he said.
Experts agree that good sleep habits include:
- Avoiding screens for an hour or two before sleep.
- Restricting caffeine and alcohol.
- Making a wind-down routine before turning in.
Your daytime activities will also be a part of sleep hygiene. Exercising will reduce stress and help stabilize your mood, said Bond.
It is also best to take care of a daily sleep schedule, she said.
“People think, ‘Oh, I’ll sleep in on the weekend.’ For good sleep habits and good quality sleep, it is usually best simply to attempt to keep your normal schedule.”
How can I help my kids adjust?
For folks and caregivers of young children, this weekend’s time change presents an extra challenge: adjusting your kids’ schedules along along with your own.
“[Kids] haven’t got the standard biological devices that adults must form of tolerate different changes of their sleep patterns. So that they profit far more than adults from, kind of, a daily sleep schedule and regular predictable schedule,” said Lee.
“They suffer loads more when that schedule is misaligned through forces which might be beyond their control.”
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Lee and Yadollahi agree that getting outside Sunday morning will help kids re-adjust more quickly.
“It’s probably the only biggest thing that we are able to do to assist keep the circadian rhythm intact for teenagers is to get them that morning light exposure, particularly outside,” said Lee.
Can sleep aids help with the time change?
Though the market is stuffed with sleep aids that promise an excellent night’s rest, there is simply one that would help with the switch to sunlight time, said Lee. And that is melatonin.
“It could actually help shift our sleep cycle if properly timed and dosed,” he said.
The timing is dependent upon your circadian rhythm, said Lee, but as a general rule, he recommends some people taking one to a few milligrams of melatonin between 7 and 9 p.m.
There are potential unintended effects from melatonin, nonetheless, said Lee, including sedative effects, disturbing dreams, or interactions with other drugs. If you happen to experience any of them, it is best to check with your health-care provider, he added.
“Everybody has to kind of experiment slightly bit with their very own circadian rhythm. But taken at the moment, it will possibly help speed up the adjustment to sunlight [time] in the precise person,” he said.
When is it time to check with a sleep expert?
If persons are practising good sleep hygiene and still find themselves unable to get a solid night’s rest, it might be time for a sleep assessment, said Lee.
Bond, the respiratory therapist in Saint John, does those sorts of sleep assessments in addition to testing for sleep apnea, a condition by which your respiration stops and restarts persistently throughout the night.
There are numerous common symptoms to sleep apnea, said Bond.
“If an individual’s gasping, choking, feeling like they cannot catch their breath in the course of the night; headaches, depression, anxiety, all those things can be a little bit of a red flag to say, ‘Oh, possibly I should get my sleep checked,'” she said.
Other symptoms include waking up with a dry throat or having trouble falling back asleep should you get up within the night, said Bond.
“You possibly can go on to develop some quite significant health issues should you do not get it treated,” she said.
There are several different treatments for sleep apnea, depending on the severity, said Bond, probably the most common one being a CPAP machine to assist people breathe higher while asleep.
For Lee, creating that healthy wind-down routine before bed is essential to getting an excellent night’s rest.
“The drive to sleep is incredibly strong. It’s almost as strong because the drive to breathe. So so long as we’re not doing things to form of affect that drive, then we just let that drive take over.”
And should you do get up in the midst of the night? Don’t have a look at the clock.
“That clock actually makes us take into consideration our sleep after which can work to sabotage your sleep,” said Lee.