By Deirdre Conroy, O2X Sleep Specialist, PhD
How to adjust your sleep routine to prepare for the end of daylight savings time
If you read the title and thought to yourself “What sleep routine?,” this one is for you. As many of you already know, sleep is an essential part of health, and we at O2x make sure to give it the attention it deserves in overall health and wellbeing. There are so many factors that can influence how and when we sleep, but with an upcoming time change affecting people throughout much of the U.S., let’s shift our focus to the process of preparing for sleep to unfold.
Let’s start with a quick lesson. Sleep is regulated by two major processes, and these two processes are explained by something called “the two process model.” If you are seeking ways to improve the quality and timing of your sleep, these two processes have to interact with each other around the same time.
First, we have an endogenous circadian clock in our brains that dictates the internal biological rhythms, not only of our sleep cycle, but for almost all systems in our body, including things such as appetite and mood. With the help of darkness, the circadian system promotes sleep at night, and with the help of bright light, it promotes wakefulness during the day. Major fluctuations in our light dark cycle, like when we travel to another time zone, affect our circadian rhythm. In order to reset each day, this rhythm must be synchronized with light.
The other factor is called the homeostatic “sleep drive.” Think of sleep drive like hunger. For example, the longer we go without food, the hungrier we become. Therefore, the longer we go without sleep, the sleepier we get. Sleep drive is based solely on how many hours we’ve been awake. Disrupters to your body’s sleep drive are behaviors like napping or using caffeine too close to bedtime. Caffeine can stay in the body for up to about eight hours after it is consumed.
In order to prepare this sophisticated system, we have to prepare our body and mind for bed. Here are five tips I often recommend to prepare for sleep.
5 Tips to Prepare for Sleep
- Disengage from all electronics (e.g. your phone) one hour before bedtime. Engage in pleasant and calm activities; reading is at the top of the list here.
- Do not doze off on the couch before your typical bedtime. This will affect your sleep drive and make it harder to fall asleep when you do go to bed.
- Dim the lights in the hour before bed. Avoiding bright lights allows your natural secretion of melatonin, which signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep soon.
- Do not engage in distressing conversations or engage in distressing chats over text or social media.
- Call a truce with the clock. Disengage from the day. For example, you may not need to finish that one extra email. It’s time to wind down.
Daylight Savings Time
On November 7, 2021 at 2 am, when Daylight Savings Time ends and we move our clocks backward by one hour, we may experience a bit of a change to our sleep patterns. For many of us this may mean an extra hour in bed. But some may have a more challenging experience with the time change and its effect on your routine. For example, if you typically go to bed at 11 pm, this will become 10 pm, so you may find it difficult to stay awake until bedtime. Similarly, if you typically awaken at 7 am, this becomes 6 am, so you may awake a bit earlier than planned.
How to remedy sleep pattern changes
You may consider going to bed and waking up about 30 minutes earlier in the days leading up to November 7th. Keep in mind that the challenges you may face with the time change will pass quickly as the days go on. The rule of thumb is that for each hour of time change, it takes a day to adjust. For more information on how daylight saving time affects sleep, see the National Sleep Foundation.
About the specialist: Dr. Conroy is an O2X Sleep Specialist and a Clinical Professor at Michigan Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. She studied psychology and sleep disorders medicine while getting her PhD at The City University of New York. After graduating with her doctorate, she left the east coast for Ann Arbor, Michigan to obtain post-doctoral training at the University of Michigan department of psychiatry. There, she studied the relationship between insomnia and alcohol dependence. She transitioned to the clinical faculty at Michigan in 2007 where she has been working with patients, educating medical residents and fellows, and directing the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program. Dr. Conroy is a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, a diplomate of the Board of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, and is board certified in cognitive behavioral therapy by the American Board of Professional Psychology.