10 Ways to Keep Daylight Saving Time From Disrupting Sleep
Daylight saving time arrives March 13, when clocks are pushed ahead an hour and most Americans lose a bit of precious weekend sack time. But for many people, the switch is more than an annual inconvenience. It can wreak havoc on sleep patterns for more than just a night -- up to a third of adults experience temporary insomnia from sudden changes in schedule (such as switching to daylight saving time), according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.Sleeplessness unfortunately is a way of life for many, with nearly half of Americans battling insomnia on occasion, according to the Sleep Foundation, and 22 percent of people dealing with insomnia almost every night. Prescription sleep aids can help in the short term, but they require visits to the doctor and the pharmacy, which for some consumers may be cost prohibitive. Moreover, prescription sleeping aids can lead to dependency. The following 10 sleep-inducing alternatives are inexpensive (some are free) and don't require a visit to the doctor.
Grandma's standby is still regarded as a way to help the body ease into slumber. The calcium, tryptophan, and magnesium in milk each play a role in inducing sleep, according to the Sleep Foundation. Of course, a warm drink in itself is soothing, which may help relax the body before bed.
Too little magnesium in the diet may make it harder to fall asleep. Supplements are readily available in drugstores and health-food stores, but foods such as leafy green vegetables, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and fish are also rich in magnesium.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles. Melatonin supplements are a common solution for jet lag, helping travelers adjust as they change time zones. However, it's not recommended as a long-term solution for sleeplessness. According to Mayo Clinic, melatonin is better for dealing with travel-related and short-term schedule changes than chronic sleep problems.
The herb valerian has been used for centuries for sleep and anxiety problems. Studies suggest it works in much the same way as medicines such as Xanax and Valium, by increasing a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid, which regulates nerve cells in the brain, but the effect is much weaker. Valerian has fewer side effects than commonly used sleeping drugs and isn't known to be addictive. Capsules or tea are the most common ways to ingest the herb.
Despite the general desire to feel warm and cozy in bed, the ideal room temperature for slumber is 60 to 67 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This range helps the body drop to a lower temperature that facilitates deep sleep. However, babies and toddlers should have the thermostat slightly higher in their rooms -- 65 to 70 degrees.
Too much light -- whether daylight or artificial -- before bed can disrupt sleep rhythms and melatonin levels, according to sleep researchers from Harvard Medical School. Blue light, the type emitted from most electronics, can be particularly disruptive for falling asleep. The best way to combat this is to shut down electronic devices a couple of hours before bedtime.
If you simply can't pull yourself away from the screen before bed, there are a few options for counteracting the blue light that imposes on sleep. The New York Times reports that orange-colored glasses (as cheap as $9 on Amazon) can help halt the typical melatonin suppression that happens with exposure to this type of light. Apps such as f.lux (free for Windows and Mac) adjust the color of a computer screen to take on a warmer glow in the evening.
A National Sleep Foundation poll found a strong association between vigorous exercise (running, cycling, swimming, or competitive sports) and sleep quality. Intense workouts too close to bedtime can rev up some peoples' bodies, but experts say most people should have no trouble falling asleep if they allow their body temperature to fall to 98.6 degrees and their heart rate to drop to resting levels before turning in.
Parents of infants are often advised to create a soothing evening routine to signal to the baby that it's bedtime. The same advice can hold true for adults. Try taking a hot bath and listening to relaxing music in the evening. Another ritual to calm the mind and body might be a cup of herbal tea and a book, or a few yoga stretches before bed.