How To Optimize Sleep During Seasonal Shifts
As winter wanes and each day grows longer with more light, our natural circadian rhythm is impacted so we need to consider preparing for this shift. Spring is a wonderful season that brings about feelings of opportunity, energy, and blossoming—a stark contrast to the stillness and slowness of winter. That's why intentionally transitioning from winter to spring can give you an advantage as you move into the next season to continue working on your dreams as you expand your routine and daily accomplishments.
One of the biggest changes spring brings about for a lot of people is Daylight Savings Time. If you live in an area where this effects you, we "spring forward" with this time shift, which essentially means we lose an hour of sleep to account for the increased daylight each day. You can go to sleep one hour earlier the night of Daylight Savings, if you can... I don't know about you, but my body doesn't flip the switch that easily. Fortunately there are many other ways to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep as we prepare to start a new season well-rested and focused on energy.
Tips To Have the Best Sleep
I've used this app to track my sleeping patterns at night and found it quite insightful. I've been able to use the information it gathers while I'm drifting through my various stage of sleep to help me refine my routine and habits. The following information is used to generate a general sleep score that indicates your overall quality of sleep. Through the use of sonar waves emitted from your phone, it determines:
How long it takes to fall asleep
The amount of each type of sleep you had—light sleep, deep sleep, and REM
Time it takes to wake up
Total time spent in bed
This free app also has a wealth of information on how to get a better night's sleep. I'll be honest that after a few weeks I felt that I had learned enough to stop tracking with the app, but I still do check out the articles that pop up in my phone from time to time. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone curious and wanting to better understand how well they really are sleeping.
Watch what you eat before bed
Sometimes a little pre-bed time snack is irresistible. However, many medical publications list both pros and cons about snacking before bed, along with specific recommendations for what to consume to optimize sleep. This is best determined by knowing your own body and doing individual research by reviewing articles like this one to see what might align with your lifestyle.
Stop using your phone an hour before you go to sleep
The blue light that technology screens emit has been scientifically proven to negatively impact sleep quality and the ability to easily fall asleep. Professionals recommend to stop using phones an hour before you intend to fall asleep. What could you do with this time instead? Journal, meditate or use the Calm App for something to occupy your brain.
Sometimes when it seems hard to fall asleep, we don't take into account all of the factors that impact brain activity before bed. Getting off your phone and then immediately turning over to try to fall asleep is not a realistic expectation. Consider your bed time routine and activities that you do before you try to fall asleep. Is your environment conducive to sleep? The Calm App is specifically engineered to help you fall asleep, relax or meditate with its sounds and stories.
Don't sleep with the TV on
Many people sleep with the TV on for "background noise" to help them sleep because sometimes it's hard to sleep in dead silence or they have environmental factors that are disruptive at night, such as living next to a highway. Televisions emit the same harmful blue lights as phone and the variety and content of TV noise can inhibit your sleep quality.
Turn off all lights
The best sleep comes with darkness. Melatonin is naturally produced approximately three hours after the green and blue light of a day fade. When we try to sleep with many lights on, it confuses our body and effects production of melatonin—the hormone that makes us sleep.
Consider a sound machine
If you like to sleep with the TV on for the background noise, sound machines or fan noise are adequate replacements and are more likely to improve your quality of sleep, rather than decrease it. Nature sounds and white noise can help lull you to sleep and keep you there.
Try drinking collagen before bed
Part of my nightly routine is adding 2 scoops of collagen to my tea before going to bed. Not only is it great for improving gut health, complexion and issues with joints, but it is rich in glycine which can help you relax and lower your body temperature helping to prepare you for falling asleep. (Note consult with your health care professional before trying this though, as some people have issues digesting collagen and those prone to kidney stones or with histamine intolerances should be careful when consuming collagen.) One natural form of getting collagen is a high quality bone broth - I make my own every couple of weeks and start my day with a cup of this. However adding the dried tasteless powder to my tea works well in the evening.
Get Moving, Get Sunlight Early in the Day & Be Consistent
Physical activity helps reduce stress and in the process helps improve sleep as well. Combine this with early morning sunlight and you'll help reset your body's internal clock which will also help you get a better night's rest. The more you incorporate these activities consistently, the more consistently you will get good sleep as well. Yet it is also helpful to stay consistent with the time you get up and the time you go to bed, including on the weekends. This too helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
Take a Shower or Bath in the Evening
Taking a warm shower or bath an hour or two before bedtime is another way to help prepare your body to go to sleep. Our body's core temperature naturally begins to cool in the evening before bed, while the temperature of the skin, hands, feet and limbs increase slightly. It is belied that a warm shower or bath may help increase this tendency.
Calming Activities To Add To Your Evening Routine
Just as a healthy and active morning routine makes waking up and being productive easier, an adjusted evening routine can improve your sleep and wind-down from your day. Here are some things to consider adding to your routine to help you fall asleep easily and decompress:
Moon salutation yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga or simply some gentle stretching
A calming cup of hot tea
Deep breathing exercises
What's a Chronotype: Finding Your Personalized Productivity and Routine
You have likely heard of or even deemed yourself a "morning bird" or a "night owl", but did you know these classifications are more than just personality traits? The morning bird and night owl concept is actually a simplified chronotype. Chronotypes are specified classifications that take into account biological factors, natural circadian rhythm, genetics, and location to determine energy, sleep, and productivity fluctuations throughout a 24-hour period.
Do you typically find yourself getting tired at work at the beginning of each afternoon after lunch? Or is this when you have renewed energy and are ready to complete more projects? Each chronotype aligns with a daily schedule that dictates peak energy points throughout the day, your optimal sleep period, and how to take advantage of this in the workplace.
There are four chronotypes: the lion, the wolf, the dolphin, and the bear. Dr. Michael Breus is a widely-popular expert on chronotypes and you can take his quiz to find yours here. After learning your chronotype, you can read about the schedules and productivity of each type, as well as more information about how to use this information with this blog post.
We can use chronotypes to inform work habits and optimize the time of day that we have most energy and adapt sleep routines to be naturally aligned with circadian rhythm.
Quality Sleep is Essential for Good Health
I know you have heard this before, but it bears repeating, as too many of us simply don't get the rest we need to allow our bodies to recover and repair daily. Have you ever noticed your mood and how well you function after a night when you didn't get sufficient sleep?
If you aren't already cognizant of how lack of sleep effects you personally, try paying extra attention to the difference in your mood, memory capacity and cognitive processes on days when you have slept well vs a night when you haven't.
It's time to make sure a good night's sleep is high on your priority list. I hope you've found a few nuggets of information in this post to get you one step closer to quality zzz's.😴
PS, One helpful tip for adjusting to the Daylight Savings Time change is to begin getting up just a little earlier every day right now, instead of trying to make the hour shift all at once. I haven't been setting an alarm lately as I've been trying to wake up naturally in an effort to get sufficient sleep, but since I've generally been waking up at the same time lately, I'm going to start shifting both the time I hit the pillow and the time I wake up by starting to set an alarm again.