This Sunday, we “spring forward” an hour for Daylight Saving Time. At 2 a.m. on March 8, 2020, clocks will skip ahead to 3 a.m.
Dr. Lirong Zhu, medical director of Mercy Sleep Center, says now is the time to analyze your biological clock. The board-certified neurologist, sleep medicine specialist and new fellow member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine sums up some easy solutions if you get behind on sleep next week.
“Waking up on Sunday, your body may already feel behind schedule,” Dr. Zhu said. “Getting out of bed at a decent hour in the morning is going to be much harder, so you will want to turn your lights on earlier. That exposure to bright light in the morning will send signals through your nerves to the brain, which will change melatonin secretion time and help you wake up earlier.”
Melatonin is a hormone that helps control your sleep-wake schedule.
“But don’t wait to flip that switch all at once. A few mornings before, try turning lights on 15 minutes earlier, then 30 minutes the following day, and gradually to a full hour so you’re ahead of the game come Sunday.”
In November, when it’s time to “fall back,” follow Dr. Zhu’s advice in reverse by gradually keeping the lights on later at night to keep you up longer. The exposure to brightness at night will delay melatonin secretion and keep you up later.
Dr. Zhu recommends against self medication to adjust your biological clock. It’s important to check with your doctor before turning to any supplements.
Alcohol, Naps & Exercise
A common misconception is that drinking alcohol will ensure a more peaceful slumber. “Studies show that if you drink alcohol late at night, you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night, even if you fall asleep quickly,” Dr. Zhu said. “For most people, you end up feeling much worse in the morning.”
“And don’t even think about taking a nap,” Dr. Zhu added. “Unless it’s earlier in the day, naps can seriously derail your sleep pattern. If you must do it, limit yourself to 30 minutes.”
You may even want to get your workout in earlier. “Exercising close to bedtime, you get the adrenaline pumping and your heart rate spikes, making it harder to wind down for the day. Working out in the morning can even help with insomnia, and you’ll be more productive in the day.”
Putting yourself in a good environment when going to bed will help ensure you fall asleep easily. It is also important to consider factors that could wake you up throughout the night. So, what’s the best recipe for good sleep? Dr. Zhu recommends a cool, dark and quiet bedroom.
“And don’t go to bed hungry or full,” Dr. Zhu said. “You should eat just enough to make it through the night comfortably.”