11 Ways to Keep the Time Change From Disrupting Your Sleep
Daylight saving time ends Nov. 6, setting clocks back an hour and giving most Americans a bit more precious weekend sack time. The extra hour of sleep is likely to "unmask" the sleep-deprived, says Dr. Raj Dasgupta of the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "You may wake up more refreshed and say, 'Wow, what happened?'" The end of daylight savings -- officially at 2 a.m. Sunday -- is considered easier to handle than its start in the spring. But it can be tough for the third of adults who suffer temporary insomnia from any sudden change in schedule, according to the AASM. Here are some free or inexpensive techniques to help handle the time shift.
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The end of daylight saving time is no surprise, so why not plan for it? Dasgupta suggests setting the clock back a few days earlier to get adjusted. Instead of shifting a full hour, some people could benefit from gradual adjustments -- maybe 15 minutes a day -- to let the body's internal clock ease into a new schedule.
Try sticking to a sleep schedule, Dasgupta says, no matter what the clock says. If the end of daylight saving time means waking up an hour early, get out of bed and get on with the day rather than trying to sleep longer when your body doesn't need it.
Shorter days and changing weather mean less daylight, which deprives the body of vitamin D and generally messes with circadian rhythm. Especially around the end of daylight saving time, get outdoors and soak up as much sun as possible, starting first thing in the morning.
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For those who can't avoid or resist screen time just before bedtime, there are other options. Apps such as F.lux (free for Windows and Mac) counteract the blue light by giving computer screens a warmer glow in the evening. Phones increasingly do this automatically, or have a setting that can be activated.
People love to feel cozy and warm in bed, but the best room temperature for slumber is 60 to 67 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Setting the thermostat in this range helps body temperatures drop, which facilitates deeper sleep. Babies and toddlers should have the temperature slightly higher in their rooms -- 65 to 70 degrees.
A poll by the National Sleep Foundation showed a strong link between vigorous exercise (running, cycling, or swimming, for instance) and sleep quality. But intense workouts increase core temperatures, and not allowing enough time to cool down before bed can lead to insomnia, Dasgupta says.
Supplements of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles, can ease travel-related and short-term schedule changes, according to Mayo Clinic. But there's no precise recommended dosage for non-pharmaceutical sleep aids and plenty of variability in effectiveness, Dasgupta says.
The herb valerian, often taken in tea or capsules, has helped with sleep and anxiety problems for centuries. Studies suggest it has an effect similar to medicines such as Xanax and Valium, but weaker. It's also not known to be addictive and has fewer side effects. Still, even something as gentle as valerian should be approved by a doctor first, especially for anyone who fears interaction with another drug.
Alcohol may make you drowsy, but it doesn't really help you sleep. On the contrary, it disrupts sleep cycles, Dasgupta says.