Falling Back: 4 Ways to Adjust to the Fall Time Change

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Set yourself a reminder on your phone, because next Sunday, November 4 at 2am marks the beginning of the autumn time change, in which we roll back the clocks an hour to adjust to the shorter sunlight of winter. (“Take it back now y’all…” Cha Cha Slide, anyone?)

The good news: Rolling back the clock means gaining, rather than losing, an hour of sleep (hallelujah!). And contrary to springing ahead, the rate of heart attacks decrease after rolling clocks back an hour.

The bad news: This still affects your body’s circadian rhythm. In fact, a 2001 National Institute of Health study showed that there was “a significant increase in number of accidents on the Sunday of the fall shift.”

Regardless of whether you are springing forward or falling back an hour, it can take the body up to a week to completely adjust to the new time change.

So what are some ways you can prepare your body for the time shift?

1. CREATE A BEDTIME RITUAL.

A bedtime ritual is important every night, not just the nights before a time change. However, use this as an opportunity to create a bedtime ritual if you don’t already have one. This means putting away the technology, which messes with your ability to fall asleep thanks to the light it emits. Sleep 101: Your body’s sleep cycle is made to match the light-dark cycle. But with artificial light, it’s more difficult for the body to stick to the natural rhythm of falling asleep when it’s dark outside.

Consider a calming ritual, like a bubble bath with a good book and a diffuser releasing relaxing scents of lavender. Make sure your bath isn’t too crazy hot, as upping your body’s core temperature can make falling asleep more difficult. Lower the temperature in your bedroom—consider opening the windows if it’s cool outside (helloooo fall) or investing in a portable fan if you don’t have an overhead fan.

And again, leave the technology out of your bedroom. If you must use your phone for an alarm, consider putting it across the room so you’re not tempted to grab and scroll as you lay in bed.

2. AVOID ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE.

While we’ll admit that we do sometimes love a glass of rosé while enjoying a bubble bath, it’s actually better to avoid alcohol before bed. Though the alcohol may make you drowsy initially, it ultimate screws up your circadian rhythm, making REM sleep difficult or blocking it altogether. This means you wake up feeling groggy, rather than refreshed, no matter how many hours you “slept.”

And caffeine, of course, is a no-no. This applies even to those of you who down 8 cups of coffee a day and claim to not feel the effects of caffeine anymore—caffeine still disrupts your sleep cycles. For a warm beverage before bed, go for a non-caffeinated herbal tea.

3. AVOID LONG NAPS.

While your body may be begging you for a nap that lasts all afternoon, long naps are actually a nemesis of a good night’s sleep. This applies not only to time changes, but to any day. Instead, stick with a short nap of 10-20 minutes not too late in the day to avoid the nap affecting your ability to fall, and stay, asleep later that night.

4. THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO PARTY ‘TIL DAWN.

One of the possibilities posited by the 2001 National Institute of Health Study on the increase in traffic crashes after the fall shift is that people use the extra hour as an excuse to stay out later--with many of these increased crashes due to sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption. So no, don’t use this extra hour as an excuse to go hard at the bars; this will severely impact your ability to adjust to the new time change, not to mention leave your body feeling like a pile of rocks on Sunday.

And even if you’ve gone to bed at a normal hour on Saturday night, you still shouldn’t linger in bed too long on Sunday morning. Sleeping through the sunlight can actually mess with your body for the rest of the week. Instead, get up with the sun, which is your body’s natural alarm clock. Your body will thank you for it.

Adequate sleep is one of the #1 COMPONENTS of a healthy lifestyle. Use the upcoming fall time shift as an opportunity to adopt healthy sleep habits!

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