The clocks go back this weekend. Good news you’d think, in that we get an extra hour in bed. That might be great news on Monday morning when you effectively had an extra lie in, but the tricky bit starts that evening when you may not feel sleepy at your usual bedtime. By the middle of the week our natural rhythms are likely to be knocked a little out of sync and getting up on time becomes harder to do. It’s a bit like giving ourselves a mini dose of jet lag.
Here are some tips on how to handle the time change without it messing with your sleep patterns:
Prepare for the day ahead
Worry is a real sleep stopper. There’s nothing worse than lying in bed unable to sleep and getting more and more stressed about all the things you have to do the next day. Doing some little things the night before that help you have a speedy start in the morning can help you buy a bit of time and take a weight of your mind. So spend ten minutes in the evening making the pack lunches and getting outfit ready for the next day so you can turn in for the night knowing those bits are done and waiting for you when you wake.
Get light smart
Light regulates sleepiness levels. Clocks going back mean lighter mornings (for a while anyway). Good news as waking up should be easier so throw open those curtains on waking to take advantage of the light and walk or cycle to work to dose up on daylight.
The flip side is darker afternoons and evenings of course. That means through the winter we’re reliant on artificial light. The blue light that screens and bulbs emit help to keep us awake through the afternoon as light levels fall, but they also confuse the brain into thinking it’s perpetually daytime. The trick is knowing when to switch them off. Lower the wattage at night to help you get sleepy and stay away from backlit screens (computers, phones and TVs for example) for at least an hour before you want to go to sleep.
Eat and drink clever
Disrupted sleep can also mess with our appetite. When we don’t get enough rest our body produces more of the hunger hormone, grehlin. So watch out for night-time munchies and a craving for sugary breakfasts.
If you do feel peckish before bed, choose things that can help you feel sleepy – oats, dairy, nuts, bananas, cherries, turkey in small enough bites that they’ll fill a hole before bedtime without making you feeling heavy are all good options.
Avoid stimulants including anything with caffeine in it (not just coffee and soft drinks) watch out for it in tea and chocolate too.
Darker days can be a downer. So put some time aside each night to help you end the day feeling positive as the evenings get inkier. A natter on the phone with a friend, listening to some music you love, reading an uplifting book – can all help you go to sleep feeling happier and more content.
Our sense of smell has an amazing power to change our mood so if you are feeling a bit blue as the winter draws in, try a delicious aromatherapy massage oil, facial oil, room spray or roll on. Apply before bed as part of your night-time skincare routine to nourish skin through the colder months and to lift your spirit as you drop off to sleep.
Doing some simple and slow yoga poses and breathing practices before bed, and even on the bed can be a brilliant way to calm the nervous system before trying to get to sleep. It also becomes a little sleep ritual priming your body for sleep. Take a look at my post about Yoga For Sleep here with a free downloadable guide too.
Even if your sleep patterns are sorted it won’t count for much unless the rest of the household’s sleep routines are working too. The last thing you need are fights about going to bed because they are not tired and then little heads popping round your bedroom door at 5am because they are wide awake. Adapt and apply these tips to the kids bedtime routines to help ensure the whole household has a lovely long week of sweet dreams.
Adapted from Jo Foster from Kiss the Moon