Feeling a little groggy and "off" this week? The end of Daylight Savings Time may be throwing your circadian rhythm out of whack. So why do we even do Daylight Savings Time if it's not doing us any favors?! Daylight saving time was put into place in the United States during World War I in an effort to conserve fuel. By moving clocks forward in the Spring, there was an extra hour of daylight in the evening to get things done without having to switch on the lights after work. The cost of fuel is not what it was at that time, but the cost to our biological rhythms remains quite high.
What the time shift does to your body
The sun dictates our circadian rhythms- our 24-hour clock that is responsible for regulating the release of hormones that control our sleep, mood, and hunger. When these rhythms shift, as they do with the time change, your body notices the difference for around 5 days after the time change; sometimes longer if you have other things going. on that affect your
Some people get “cluster headaches” that cluster within one side of the head, causing significant pain for days or weeks.
Lack of sleep leads to an increase in the hormone ghrelin that regulates hunger, causing an increase in appetite and cravings, and a decrease in leptin; the hormone that signals when we are full. It’s a tight hormonal balance and daylight-saving shifts can absolutely throw it off. You might notice an increase in urges to snack as your body is trying to adjust to the time change.
Sunlight plays a major role in your body. It triggers vitamin D production and makes you synthesize serotonin, the neurotransmitter linked to mood and well-being.
Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is naturally produced when it’s dark and stops when you’re exposed to sunlight. Hence why we're all feeling sleepy by dinnertime these days.
How to get your biological clock back in sync
Use light to your advantage
Every morning, go outside and get some sunlight in your naked eyes as soon after waking up as possible.
Try a UVB sun lamp. UVB rays are safe and stimulate Vitamin D production, which in turn gives you that serotonin boost to combat SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Sit under the lamp for 5 – 10 minutes, twice per week to reap the benefits of full-spectrum sunlight, even in the middle of winter. Experts agree that the most effective light boxes expose you to at least 10,000 lux of light, so do your research before buying.
Block the "junk" light. Blue light, which comes from all of our electronic devices, LED and fluorescent lights, can have a small benefit in helping you wake up in the morning. Shawn Stevenson, author of Sleep Smarter and host of The Model Health Show, suggests that each hour of exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin for approximately 30 minutes. Try swapping your nighttime social scrolling for.....
A warm shower or bath at night can help you fall asleep faster. As you cool off, your body temperature falls, which is a natural signal that it’s time to sleep. Toss some epsom salts in your bath water for extra calming benefits. On the flip side, cold exposure increases the production of norepinephrine, a hormone that plays an important role in your body’s sleep-wake cycle. Try a cold shower in the morning, at least for a few seconds, to help you wake up in the mornings.
Make some simple dietary tweaks
Avoid eating meals within 2 hours of going to sleep. Sleep is designed so our bodies can rest and allow tons of behind-the-scenes repair and restorative work to take place. When your body has to divert this energy to digesting a whole meal, you're likely to feel it the next day. If you get really hungry at night, try a small snack with some healthy fats an hour before bedtime.
Skip the afternoon caffeine pick-me-up. Even I used to swear caffeine didn't affect my sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of approximately 6 hours though! A grande Starbucks with no added shots has a whopping 330 mg of caffeine. If you had one at 3 pm, you still have 115 mg of magic bean juice coursing through your veins, stimulating your adrenals to produce adrenaline & cortisol (stress hormones) at 9 pm- the equivalent to 3 cans of soda!
Sleep Supportive Supplements & Herbs
If your melatonin levels are off, you might consider a small dose of melatonin for a short period of time. Look for a plant-derived form of melatonin around 0.3 milligrams, which is just enough to help you fall asleep without interfering with your body’s natural hormone levels. Many common melatonin supplements use very high doses which can block your body's ability to produce its own over time.
Magnesium is known as the "relaxation mineral" and is responsible for calming our muscles, brain cells, and nerve cells (and supports like 300 more bodily functions!) Epsom salt baths or 200 - 400 mg of oral Magnesium supplementation an hour before bed can help you fall asleep faster and achieve a deeper level of rest.
Reishi mushrooms have been shown in studies to improve sleep latency (time to fall asleep) and increase length of deep REM sleep. There are plenty of yummy Reishi hot cocoa concoctions on the market now, so cozy up around a fire and sip your way. toa blissful slumber.
Other herbs that are proven to support sleep: valerian root, passionflower, chamomile, lavender, hops.
Wishing you a season of deep, restorative sleep! Share your favorite sleep hygiene hacks below!