Importance of a Consistent Sleep Cycle
Daylight Saving Time ends the first Sunday of November and is coming up this weekend. The clocks “fall back” by one hour. The idea is to give people more daylight in the cooler Fall and Winter mornings. Daylight Saving Time begins the second Sunday of March and we will get to “spring ahead” an hour giving us more daylight for the warmer nights in Spring and Summer. Germany was the first to use Daylight Saving Time in May of 1916 during World War 1 in an attempt to conserve fuel. Europe followed Germany’s lead. Daylight Saving Time was adopted in the United States in March of 1918 but was abolished after WW1. President Franklin Roosevelt implemented a year round Daylight Saving Time called “war time” in 1942 but it ended in 1945. Daylight Saving Time became standard in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act. It was established to help mandate standard time across the country within established time zones.
While Daylight Saving Time may have some pros, there are also a few cons; sleep schedules being one of them. Daylight Saving Time can definitely take a toll on one’s sleep schedule. It is easy to appreciate that extra hour of sleep in the Fall, but it can also be extremely difficult for some to lose that extra hour of sleep in the Spring. It also may be hard for some people to stick to their sleep schedule when we move the clocks around on them.
Having a consistent sleep schedule is important because it allows us to:
- Improve our immune system
- Reduce our risk for cardiovascular disease
- Helps repair our cells and muscles
- Help reduce our stress and increases our mood
- Helps us think and interact more clearly
- Produces energy
Now that you know what consistent sleep does for you, you have to figure out how to achieve and develop this sleeping schedule. The first step is to know your sleep habits and what works best for you. Ask yourself “what conditions help me sleep the best?” Do you sleep best in cold or hot temperatures, do you need white noise or a fan, is the TV on, do you like to sleep in total darkness or maybe you like two pillows instead of one.
By asking yourself all of these questions you can narrow down the things that help you get the best sleep that you can possibly have. In addition to your sleep conditions, ask yourself how many hours of sleep do you need. Do you thrive off of a full 8 hours of sleep or can you get through your day just fine with 6 or 7 hours? Establishing these guidelines can help you create a steady sleep routine. You will know what conditions you prefer and how much time you need to get that sufficient sleep. When you apply these factors into your daily routine, you will find yourself getting better and more efficient sleep.
Consistency is key. You may have the perfect sleep schedule and routine, however you may be doing it at different times every night. While this may not seem like a problem, going through your sleep routine at different times each night, even if you are getting the amount of hours that you need, can lead to some confusion in your body. Our bodies are full of systems, we thrive off of patterns and schedules, especially when it comes to sleep. If you are going to sleep at all different times each night, you run the risk of not getting the right quality of sleep that you need. By doing this you also can alter your circadian rhythm, especially if you spend those extra hours watching TV or scrolling on social media.
Here are a few tips that you can use to try and solidify your sleep habits:
- Avoid blue light technology at least an hour before you plan on going to sleep: blue light technology can alter one’s circadian rhythm; often confusing the body by thinking that it is not time for bed.
- Limit napping during the day
- Exercise during your day
- Avoid caffeine
- Adopt a relaxing bedtime habit: reading, meditation, journaling.
- Apply your optimal sleep conditions: temperature, pillow, sound, darkness.
- Set an alarm for wind down time: give yourself a period of time during your night routine to shut off technology and begin to tell your body that it is time for bed.
As we said earlier, consistency is key. You are not going to develop a perfect sleep schedule within a day. You may know how and what your body needs in order to achieve this schedule, but it is all about sticking with it. Your sleep is one of the most important things for your health, your body does a lot when you sleep. Therefore, altering your sleep in a negative way can lead to negative outcomes in your health. In contrast, when you positively influence your sleep your body will respond positively.
Now, ask yourself “how are my sleep habits?” Do you get enough sleep and are you taking advantage of the things that help you sleep? Now is the time to take action, build the perfect sleep schedule and stick to it, even though it may get difficult around Daylight Saving Time.