Twice a year – ‘spring ahead and fall behind’ – we are reminded that sleep is important and can be fickle.

This past weekend we moved the clock ahead one hour, and even though it does not seem like too much of a change, the loss of this hour may feel disruptive to our mood at first.  It is nice to get more light in the evening but it is dark again in the morning when we get up, which may be hard to get motivated to wake with our alarm clock.  Shifting our internal clocks may be a challenge as we try and get to bed earlier to compensate for this time shift.

Hopefully it doesn’t take too long to regain the sleep patterns we had before Daylight Savings, but it’s always good to think about our sleep hygiene and habits.

So here are a few tips for better sleep:

  1. Keep a regular sleep schedule, with the same sleep and wake times every day. Even on the weekends.  It can be tricky to get back in sync on a Monday morning after staying up late on a Friday or Saturday night.
  2. Avoid caffeine approximately 8 hours before bed. Give yourself a caffeine curfew, and the earlier you can shift this in the day, the better (like noon or early afternoon, at the latest).
  3. Engage in regular physical activity. It is important for raising and returning our core body temperature to normal, so exercising earlier in the day can be beneficial.  Not to mention, a longer opportunity during the day to keep your metabolism revved up from an earlier bout of exercise.
  4. Stop drinking fluids 2 hours before bed if your sleep is frequently interrupted for bathroom breaks.
  5. Limit screen time 1 hour before bed. Sleep author Shawn Stevenson writes “the artificial blue light emitted by electronic screens triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (such as cortisol) and disorients your body’s natural preparation for sleep.”  People using screens before bedtime generally take longer to fall asleep and do not stay asleep for as long as people avoiding devices.  Read a real book instead of a book on your iPad, and give yourself a screen curfew of at least an hour before bed.
  6. Limit alcohol before bed. Alcohol may help us fall asleep quickly but the rebound effect may wake you up in the middle of the night.  After the calming glass of wine or beer is metabolized, the depressive effects wear off and often we wake up with a bit of energy (at 2 am).
  7. Make your bedroom a ‘sleep sanctuary’, which is reserved for sleep and other peaceful activities, kept cool, dark, and quiet.
  8. Limit awake time spent in bed, so if you’re having trouble falling asleep don’t just lay in bed, get up and do something calming for a bit like reading or meditating, then go back to bed and try again.

Hopefully, by utilizing these tips, we can get back on track and into our regular (or improved) sleep routines!