In November, we “fall back” as daylight saving time comes to an end and set our clocks back an hour. Though this change is typically thought to be less detrimental to sleep habits, it still interrupts our circadian rhythms, or our internal clock that follows a daily cycle of sleep and wake times.
As you switch your wardrobe for the changing weather, Kevin Carter, DO, sleep medicine specialist at Kettering Health Network, recommends adjusting your sleep schedule to accommodate the time change.
“The best way to deal with any circadian rhythm interruption is to start moving your sleep schedule prior to the event,” Dr. Carter explains. “For a one-hour time change, start moving your bedtime by 15 minutes starting four days before. To prepare to ‘fall back,’ you could begin moving your bedtime forward by 15 minutes each night starting four nights before the time change.” Easing into the change in time will feel more natural to your body than the stark change of an hour.
Recommended sleep needs
In general, the daily sleep amounts recommended by experts are:
• Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
• Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
• Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
• Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
• School-age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
• Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
• Adults: 7-9 hours
Effects on the body
Lack of sleep, or frequently interrupted sleep, contributes to lack of focus, increased mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, and short-term memory loss. Dr. Carter says time changes also contribute to a higher number of vehicle collisions and cardiovascular distress. Make sure you’re taking care of your body and getting adequate rest to stay safe and healthy.
Start sleeping better
If you struggle with smaller steps toward an earlier snooze, Dr. Carter offers these tips for a healthier sleep:
• Avoid or limit caffeine. Try to set a “caffeine curfew” to limit caffeine consumption near bedtime.
• Avoid large meals before bedtime, and don’t eat anything too spicy or fatty. If you’re accustomed to a before-bed snack, Dr. Carter suggests choosing a small carbohydrate with a bit of protein, such as a banana with peanut butter.
• Exercising during the day, at the same time every day, will help drive you into sleep faster at night.
• Dim the lights as you approach bedtime and turn off all but the lights necessary for safety. “As we expose ourselves to light during the day, we’re suppressing melatonin, which helps signal to the circadian rhythm that it’s time for bed,” says Dr. Carter.
• Stay away from electronics. The blue light from electronic devices also suppresses melatonin. Using an electronic device close to bedtime or in bed makes our brains more awake and stimulated. “Research shows that this disruption to our internal clock affects sleep not just that night but the next night as well,” says Dr. Carter. If you’re set in your ways of watching TV before bed, Dr. Carter suggests trying to sit farther away than normal. If children must use devices in the evening, such as for homework, use the “night mode” setting available on smartphones and computers.
• If you prefer reading on a screen, use an e-reader that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper rather than a tablet or smartphone. The technology is easier on both your eyes and your brain.
• Try to set a routine with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times at the same time every day. Incorporate activities into your evening that will help wind you down and relax you in the evening, such as reading a book or meditating.
If you need more help with your sleep habits, find a physician by calling 1-855-400-7533 or visit ketteringhealth.org/sleep