Protect Your Sleep in 5 Easy Steps

The Daylight Saving time change is quickly approaching (set your clocks one hour forward on Sunday March 10 at 2AM). Though it may not seem like much, this one hour change will throw some of us off our sleep schedule for up to several weeks. A full night of sleep is extremely essential to our well-being. Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening of high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. An increase in sleeping hours is correlated with lowering inflammation and stress hormones in our blood. Also, the so called “brain rust” which is the buildup of metabolic byproducts of brain chemistry is removed during a full night’s sleep. This buildup of iron has been now linked to early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Follow these tips in the upcoming days to prepare your body for the impending time change:

  1. Increase your time in bright light. Go outside as much as you can and expose your hands and face to the sun. The bright natural light signals to your brain and hormones when the prime waking hours are and your circadian rhythms will adjust to proper sleep hours.

  2. Minimize “blue light” in the evening. One hour before bedtime, switch off any screens and turn to a book or try some journaling. Alternatively, you could try special orange tinted sunglasses that are designed to block the blue light, or download an app such as f.lux to block blue light on your laptop or computer.

  3. Go to bed 30-60 minutes before your usual bedtime to start compensating for the hour “lost”.

  4. Avoid drinking alcohol and coffee. Alcohol is known to increase snoring and sleep apnea. Coffee late in the day is of course a well known stimulant and sleep disruptor. Try replacing caffeinated drinks with herbal or decaffeinated alternatives.

  5. Clear your mind before bed. Think of pleasant events that transpired during the day. Resist watching the news, since that will likely raise your stress hormones. Replace stressful activities with listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath and meditating. Try out different strategies and find what works best for you.