It’s that time again – for many of us in Australia and New Zealand, our clocks go back one hour this weekend. This can cause anxiety over sleep patterns and mood as the days shorten and get colder. We look at ways to help you better cope with change in the leadup to winter.
Even though we get ‘extra’ time to lie in, many people struggle with the disruption to their regular sleep pattern and can take a week or more to adjust.
The end of daylight saving also heralds the beginning of darker nights, colder mornings, and the prospect of long winter months ahead can affect our mood. Many studies find the change back to standard time in autumn is associated with a spike in diagnoses of depression, for example.
But for those among us who struggle with the end of daylight saving, here are five simple things you can do to help make the adjustment that much easier.
#1 – Ease into the sleep shift: One hour may not seem like a lot, but even a seemingly small shift can affect sleep for up to a week, especially for those light sleepers among us. Sleep experts like Harvard Medical School’s John Sharp suggest dialling back your bedtime by small increments can help you ease the transition. Try heading to bed around 20 to 30 minutes earlier you normally do in the days leading up to Sunday.
#2 – Technology can help: There are free apps available that can make the transition away from daylight saving much easier. Google will tell you when it will get dark (or light) at your location. All you have to do is open the app and say ‘sunset’ or ‘sunrise’. If you work with people in different time zones, Google Calendar lets you add international calendars so you’re not calling colleagues in the UK or Hong Kong too early or late.
The rise of smart home devices can also make the end of daylight saving more bearable. Lights can be set to turn on automatically when the sun goes down earlier, so you’re not coming home to a dark house. Heat pumps can be connected to your home network with smart devices and will kick into action when the temperature drops below a certain level.
#3 – The right food can help: Despite the extra time in bed on Sunday, you may feel a bit groggier than usual during the mid-afternoon slump due to the fact that daylight is ending an hour earlier. Australian sleep coach Cheryl Fingleson says eating regular, healthy meals is a great way to encourage your body to relax and reset.
Many people find hydrating and energy-rich foods like water-heavy fruits, nuts and complex carbs like popcorn are also your friends during this difficult time. At night, caffeine free ‘sleep time’ teas, or a glass of warm milk can help you get to sleep easier and reduce the chance of disruption to your sleep pattern.
#4 – Limit your coffee and alcohol on Saturday: According to the Tuck Sleep Foundation, alcohol and caffeine both interfere with our body’s internal clock, which is already going to be thrown for a loop when your body feels like it’s out of sync. As a stimulant, alcohol increases the number of times you wake up at night, so don’t treat Saturday night as a free pass to party more than normal.
If you’re the kind of person who relies on that caffeine hit or doesn’t like the idea of a weekend without a few drinks, try and avoid either of these too close to bedtime.
#5 – Light up your life: It’s well documented that winter months can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and the end of daylight saving can be a trigger for these feelings, characterised by low moods and low energy. Finding time during the day to sit in direct sunlight can help.
According to the Mayo Clinic, using light therapy boxes at home for 30 minutes or more every day can also have benefits. In countries like Sweden and Norway, light therapy has been used extensively to tread SAD since the 1980s.