Daylight Savings Time is almost upon us and with it comes the blissful realization that we have “gained” an hour or that we have lost a precious hour of our time! Aside from the obvious effect on our bedside clocks, Daylight Savings Time also affects our internal clocks. Yes, you read that right. Your body has it’s very own timing system that has evolved over thousands of years. It’s ability to measure time is highly related to the amount of light our eyes and body’s are perceiving at any given time. This makes sense, as before the invention of the light bulb, we had to rely on the sun and moon to guide our day and night.
All animals, including us, rely on this ancient internal system to guide our natural waking and sleep cycle. This waking and sleeping cycle is also known as our circadian rhythm. Many people are affected by the time change in one way or another as this very tiny shift in time can actually interfere directly with our rhythm. Problems such as falling asleep, staying asleep and feeling energetic during the first few days of the time change are all too common. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid Daylight Savings Time unless you live in the bush so here are my best tips for adjusting to it! They also work very well if you simply want to change your own sleep/wake cycle or improve the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid computers, laptops, television, cellphones or anything with a lit screen 1 hour before bed. The bright light from these devices inhibit your own production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin is the master hormone which drives our circadian rhythm.
- Take 0.5mg to 5mg of supplemental melatonin for 2 – 3 days in a row at exactly the same time each night before bed. Some will do better with instant release melatonin and some will do better with timed-release. Some do better with a combination of both! Find what works best for you. If you feel overly groggy, foggy, or just almost still asleep, the dose may be too high for you. Melatonin can be found at any health food store, drug store or anywhere that sells natural health products.
- Set your alarm to wake-up at exactly the time you want to wake up and get out of bed right away. Do not lay and roll around in bed thinking about falling back asleep! Get up and get moving, start getting your body used to the time change as quickly as possible.
- Expose yourself to bright light first thing in the morning. I use a Litebook first thing in the morning. Devices such as this are commonly used to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but can also be strategically used to improve your mood and your energy levels, especially first thing in the morning!
- Take a cold shower first thing in the morning! It doesn’t have to be all cold but you must expose yourself to the coldest temperature of water you can handle for a minimum of 1 – 5 minutes. Guaranteed to wake you up! More importantly, this cold water shock will help drive up the production of neurotransmitters in your brain and nervous system that make you feel awake. If you do this multiple days in a row as soon as you wake up, it can help naturally set the time you wake up.
- Coffee! Everyone loves coffee, especially me. But did you know it can be used as a highly effective tool to train your circadian rhythm? Coffee blunts melatonin, our sleeping hormone. It also acts as an accelerator to our body. This is exactly what we want when we wake up. So drink 1 to 2 cups upon waking. However, you’ll want to actually stop consuming any caffeine past 11AM so it has enough time to get out of our system. Caffeine can take up to 8 hours or more to clear the blood stream, and we want little to none of it in our veins when we actually go to sleep.
- Exercise in the first 5 hours you are awake. Most of us are naturally wired to be more energetic in the morning. Exercising in the first 5 hours you are awake is synergistic with our built in natural energy rhythms and will help train the body to wake up and feel more energetic in the morning.
- Eat a meal that is protein dominant within at least 60 minutes of waking up. 30 minutes is optimal. Protein as a rule of thumb generally stimulates the nervous system. The quicker you can get a large dose of high quality protein into your system, the faster your body will increase its metabolic rate and neurotransmitter output. Red meat is best due to it’s high tyrosine content.
So that’s it! I hope these tips serve you well whether you’re springing forward or pulling the hands of time backwards.
© Ryan Sleigh, Studio 536, Sleigh Fitness Inc. This article is not to be reproduced in part of whole in any format without written permission of the author.