Sleep, anxiety and daylight savings. With the beginning and end of daylight savings time (DST) comes sleep anxiety for some. As you likely know (or do now and are scrambling but just realized you have an “extra hour”), daylight savings time ended early this morning, November 3 in the United States, it’s time to fall back.
A lot of people who have sleep issues tend to stress out about the time change because it can be so disruptive. Falling back isn’t as hard as springing forward, but even a slight change may be enough to throw your whole routine off balance. Although I am fortunate enough to live in sunny southern California, winters in other parts of the world can be dark, cold and dreary which can also increase anxiety and depression.
I’ve written about the effects of daylight savings time before, and there are a few simple ways that you can lessen the effects of the time change.
- Stick to your sleep schedule that’s best for your chronotype.
- Eliminate blue light at night by putting your screens away an hour before bedtime or using blue light blocking glasses.
- Get plenty of light in the mornings. The days are going to get shorter in winter, so it’s important to get your morning sunlight. That might mean driving to work in the dark and then taking your morning coffee for a short walk.
- Avoid alcohol the weekend of the time change.
- Exercise regularly for better sleep quality.
Another factor that often gets dismissed is how stressful a routine change can be. Having to try and go to sleep when you aren’t tired or waking up too early can fill your mind with hundreds of racing thoughts. Racing thoughts are often caused by anxiety, and the phenomenon is extremely common. But anxiety doesn’t just appear magically at night. If you ignore your worries during the day, they will eventually catch up to you.
Those moments before sleep or those moments when you are awake before your alarm goes off may be the first time all day when you’re completely without distraction. The kids aren’t asking you questions, your partner is asleep, you’re disconnected from your phone and from work and you’re not trying to complete a task around the house. It’s just you and an entire day’s worth of thoughts alone in the dark. It’s unsurprising that anxiety levels might spike at then. And I’ll tell you what, it’s not very fun!
How then can you get some decent sleep without being pestered by anxious thinking?
Make Sleep a Priority
Many treat sleep like something that will automatically happen as soon as they hop into bed. However, going to sleep is more like bringing a car to stop. You gradually take your foot off the gas the slowly ease it onto the brake. It’s a process. That means we have to prioritize sleep in order to give yourself the time you need to relieve and deal with anxiety before your try to sleep.
Develop a Bedtime Ritual
The most important rule for better sleep is to pick a bedtime and a sleep schedule and stick to it. It gets your body into a rhythm. Once you’ve determined your schedule, use the hour before bed as a power-down hour. The first twenty minutes should be used to take care of unfinished tasks that can’t wait until the morning. The second twenty minutes should focus on your hygiene ritual. (A warm bath is both relaxing and conducive to a good night’s sleep.) Finally, the last twenty minutes should be used to do something relaxing.
Create a Relaxing Bedroom Environment
Keep your bedroom tidy and free of clutter. Make sure that your bedroom is dark, comfortable and cool. I can’t stress this enough, keep electronics out of the bedroom, and, if at all possible, don’t look at them an hour and a half to an hour before bedtime.
Relaxing Things to Do Before Bed
Journaling: Keep a journal by the bed. Jotting down what happened during the day can reduce anxiety levels. Do this before 6 pm, after that only work on a gratitude list, positive thoughts before bed can help with sleep.
List-Making: If you’re up late thinking about what you have to do tomorrow, make a list before you go to bed. That way, you’ll have it ready for the morning and won’t have to dwell on it when you should be sleeping.
Try TouchPoints: TouchPoints (get 10% off at checkout with the code BREUS10) are an anxiety tech product that works really well, I use them when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. This scientifically proven technology uses bilateral alternating, stimulating tactile micro-vibrations to help calm and reduce anxiety. These are really cool and you should at least check them and the science out, This tech should be on your radar if you regularly experience stress, anxiety, or related issues.
Meditation: Studies have shown that meditation can reduce anxiety. An easy technique is to sit comfortably with your eyes closed while breathing naturally, then try to keep your attention on your breath moving in and out of your body.
Bonding with Family Members: Take time to talk and bond with family members before bed. It’s a nice, life-enriching way to relax.
Supplement Your Sleep
There are plenty of great, stress-relieving supplements that you can make a part of your bedtime ritual or daily life.
Warm Lemon Honey Water: Heat the water to at least 180 degrees and pour into a cup. Add lemon juice and raw honey. (Raw honey has no added sugar.) Let the tea steep for one minute or until cool.
Banana Tea: Cut the bottom and top quarters off the ends of the banana. Slice the rest (including the peel) in half. Place the two halves in boiling water for ten minutes. Strain the banana water into your cup. Add a drop of raw honey or cinnamon for some added flavor.
Magnolia Bark: Research suggests that magnolia bark can reduce anxiety as well as the time it takes to fall asleep. Additionally, it may also increase the amount of time you spend in NREM and REM sleep.
Magnesium: Magnesium is one of those minerals that a lot of people don’t get enough of in their diets. It’s been shown to have stress-reducing and mood-boosting properties, and it also plays a significant role in healthy sleep. I take Jigsaw magnesium daily to improve my sleep quality.
Sleep Doctor PM- If you’d like something in a comprehensive formula that helps you go to sleep and go back to sleep if you wake up but won’t leave you feeling groggy you may find my Sleep Doctor PM formula right for you. Many of my patients and readers are finding it very effective for helping them go to sleep and stay asleep.
CBD: Extracted from the cannabis plant, CBD has well-known calming and anxiety-reducing properties. There’s even evidence it can help with depression!
Deal with Your Anxiety in the Daylight
You don’t have to wait until bedtime to tackle your anxiety, There are plenty of small tweaks you can make to your lifestyle that can help keep anxiety out of the bedroom.
Exercise: When done on a regular basis, exercise (both strength training and aerobic exercise) has been shown to reduce anxiety. You need 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week (or a combination of the two).
Diet: A poor diet is bad for both the body and mind. There’s plenty of research that indicates that there’s a relationship between diet and anxiety. A sugar-heavy diet can contribute to depression and hinders your ability to sleep.
Get Help When You Need It: If you’re struggling with a problem whether it’s anxiety or poor sleep, see a doctor or a specialist and get help for it. There’s no need to suffer. Being attentive and responsive to your needs can reduce anxiety and improve your sleep and overall quality of life.
By creating a relaxing and effective bedtime ritual and by dealing with your anxiety before you go to bed, you can quiet those restless thoughts and get a peaceful night’s sleep.
Dr. Michael Breus
P.S. Our sponsor today is Morter Health System, I messed up the link a couple of weeks ago so a lot of you pointed out that you couldn’t find the information on NAD. Here is a link to my blog post that reviews the use and science around NAD and you can click the logo below to get more information about NAD from Morter.com.