GIMME BACK MY HOUR: Why Daylight Saving Time Affects You More Than You Think!

This is your brain today. I was surfing FB this morning, and many of you couldn’t sleep last night, or are loath to peel yourself off the bed this morning. You feel the loss of the hour. It’s ONLY an hour right? WRONG! Research says it’s best thought of as one hour each day for an entire week. So make that 7 hours. This is tantamount to the worst kind of jet lag: the kind where you are chasing the sun. How can you make it through the next week? Here’s my tips:
1. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance: It helps to go to bed an hour earlier the night we reset the clocks. I know I am a bit Monday morning quarterbacking this. Didn’t do it? Not to worry. I’ve got more where that came from.
2. The body’s clock is regulated by light: Our circadian rhythms run on a 24-hour cycle regulated by the sun. And when we go doing stupid things like messing with time like we can really control such a thing, we are actually interrupting the natural balance the body has. I say all that to say this: light is your friend.  And dark is too. Practice good sleep hygiene tips by sleeping in a totally dark room. And when you can’t sleep in the middle of the night: please God puhleeeeze, don’t reach for the smartfone. The blue light emissions from it mimic the UV rays from the sun. Only sends the brain the message: It’s time to get up!
3. You will be a bit off for the next few days (perhaps): Your body will naturally begin to wind down and lose energy at the usual time until it regulates. This means you will feel sluggish at work late afternoon; early morning when you rise you are rising an hour earlier.  Keep this in mind.  Auto insurance companies have found a drastic, indeed statistically significant increase in auto accidents the couple of days following DST. DON’T drive while groggy. If you need to pull over, please do. Keep yourself, and everyone else safe.
4. Reset your body’s rhythms naturally: Melatonin is my go to for patients with sleep difficulties or diagnosable insomnia. It is a natural hormone that the brain secretes which regulates sleep-wake cycles. It is safe to take, and can help to speed up the equilibrium-seeking process that your body will go through for the next week.
5. Caffeine is NOT your friend:  Not in this instance.  While drinking your normal cup or 2 of java will help increase alertness and energy levels shortly thereafter, limit caffeine after about 2PM, particularly this week.  This includes dark sodas and chocolates (no one every thinks of these)!
Good sleep hygiene practice is essential. If you feel tired earlier this week (which you will), pop a melatonin, sleep earlier, limit caffeine after mid-day, and most importantly start winding down an hour before bedtime.  A little mindfulness meditation 30 minutes before bed will likely help you sleep better.
I hope these tips help. Until Chronos, or the US Government decides to give us our hour back!
Be well.
The Good Dr. Nik
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Nicole M. Alford, Ph.D. (aka The Good Dr. Nik) is a DC-area Clinical Psychologist, prolific blogger, speaker and media commentator. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @theGoodDrNik and learn about her services at http://www.TheGoodDrNik.com

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