Rolling with the (time) Changes

Time Change

No matter what your mind thinks about the twice-yearly clock change — Another hour, yay! An hour less, boo! — our bodies sure feel it. Not only that, our pets and kids feel it, too, and it can take some time to get everyone back in the groove.

Ironically, this time of year is when many people report being MORE tired, especially in the evening. Maybe this sounds familiar: “I’m SOOOO tired, I’ll just go to bed. Oh wait, it’s only 6:30.” Many people find that going to bed early — even if they are exhausted — leads to very early morning waking and more sleep disruption. How do you help your body get back on schedule and weather the declining amount of daylight?

I’ve worked with many different types of patients over the years, and these are my go-to recommendations for weathering the time change.

Get outside at midday for 15 to 30 minutes, no matter the weather. Getting natural light (even if it’s not actual sunlight!) helps keep your internal body rhythm on track.

Avoid going to bed substantially earlier than your normal bedtime. This almost always leads to middle of the night waking or early morning waking — and more sleep trouble.

If you need ideas to help manage the evening sleepies, try one of these suggestions:

  • Turn on as many lights as you can in the evening, which sends your brain a “not bedtime yet” signal. When you get within an hour of your usual bedtime, power down screens and blue light sources and dim the lights.
  • Avoid lying down on the couch or recliner. (Yes, I know this is hard!) Instead, sit upright and change position if you start feeling sleepy. Even better, use this time to do some gentle stretches on the floor or practice sitting on the floor with your back against the couch.
  • Avoid napping in the late afternoon and early evening.
  • Finish your evening meal at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Alcohol and sweets in the evening may feel good but may disturb your sleep later. Try a non-caffeinated herbal tea or a small square of dark chocolate, which is a great source of heart-healthy antioxidants.

Would you like more personalized help getting your body and health back in the groove? Consider a visit to APD Integrative Medicine. When you see me for a new patient visit, we will discuss your health situation and wellness goals and make a plan that’s just right for you. Our team also includes massage therapists who can help your body feel its best with cranio-sacral therapy, deep tissue, and gentle flow massage.

Cindy Reuter ND, LAc, RD, MSOM, MPH, is the Medical Director of Integrative Medicine at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital.