Sleep. It’s one of the fundamentals of a happy, healthy life, and without a proper amount, you can quickly begin to notice a number of health issues like fatigue or even depression.
Though, a good night of rest is not always the easiest thing to get, especially when you have young children, work odd hours, or enter the time of year known as daylight savings, which can make sleep patterns go haywire.
What is daylight savings time?
Daylight savings is the span of time during the summer when we advance our clocks ahead by one hour to preserve more daytime and then reset the clocks back to normal in the fall. It was originally designed to help make it easier for people to complete daily routines, especially in the boon of agriculture and farming.
Its history is long and controversial. The idea was first proposed in America by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 with the intent of burning fewer candles, but was first taken seriously worldwide in 1895 when introduced by a New Zealander named George Hudson who essentially wanted more work-life balance. The process began to be accepted in many countries around the globe, beginning with Germany and Austria in 1916.
By 1918, the practice was adopted in America and became an option that local governments could choose to accept or deny. But by 1974, President Nixon implemented the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act, which made it a more progressive statute adopted by almost every state.
Today, computers and other automated machines automatically switch back and forth to the correct time, which helps to make the effect more universal.
In effect, daylight savings can help in many ways including:
- Farming or other hours-long work where extra afternoon sunlight is needed
- Sporting events, especially youth events
- Reducing energy consumption by reducing the amount of artificial lighting needed
But not everything is helped by this policy; in fact, daylight savings can have serious effects on human health.
The health impacts of daylight savings time
While many choose to focus on the energy saving aspects of the process, one of the biggest impacts that daylight savings can have is in influencing health and wellness.
- One study discovered that the rate of strokes increases by eight percent over the two days following the onset of daylight savings time. “Previous studies have shown that disruptions in a person’s circadian rhythm, also called an internal body clock, increase the risk of ischemic stroke,” the study’s author Jori Ruuskanen, MD, PhD, of the University of Turku in Turku, Finland, told the American Academy of Neurology.
- A 2012 study also showed that daylight savings time is connected to a 10 percent increase in heart attacks. The study finds that this phenomenon is also related to disruption in the internal circadian process.
- Cluster headaches are also connected to changing sleep cycles that come as a result of daylight savings, according to another study.
These are, of course, some of the more serious problems that can come from daylight savings time. But by far the biggest issue for millions of Americans is simply the change in sleep patterns and the body’s internal circadian cycles, which regulate things like hunger, the production of hormones, and feelings of being sleepy or awake.
The presence of light in particular has a major impact on sleep cycles, and plays a direct role in how much melatonin the body produces. During normal daylight hours, the body creates less of this hormone. During the night, the body increases production. Since melatonin is the key compound that makes us feel sleepy, it makes sense that we can feel tired at night.
During daylight savings, however, we lose an hour of sleep. The sun rises later in the day, and people can have difficulty waking up each morning. While that one hour difference may not seem like much, it can have a profound impact on the body and mind and lead to:
- Decreased concentration
- Reduced memory
- Sleepiness during daylight hours
- Reduced mental and physical performance
And these problems can be persistent. One study found that it can take as much as three weeks to fully recover from the changes in sleep cycles, while another found that humans never fully make the adjustment. The reason? Our body isn’t keyed into the numbers we’ve assigned to time. Instead, it responds to natural light. Daylight savings essentially tries to force the body to follow a 25-hour day, while the body and mind are in tune with nature.
It’s even been shown in studies that daylight savings impacts things beyond just general fatigue. Research shows that work accidents are actually more common following the time change, and some researchers believe that ending daylight savings could reduce traffic accidents significantly as well.
Getting more rest the natural way
No matter if it’s daylight savings time or not, you should always aim to get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night. But it’s important to note that the actual quality of rest matters as well: the human body needs good, deep sleep in order to really recharge physically and mentally.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help get more sleep and rest more soundly every night.
Make it dark
Dark curtains that block out light is a good step, but so is putting down those phones and tossing conventional alarm clocks. The light from electronics can be distracting and add illumination to an otherwise dark room that will make it harder to rest properly.
Follow a schedule
Try to wake up every day at the same time. While it’s not always possible to fall asleep at the same time, it's possible to dictate when you get out of bed. Doing so can help the body fall into a natural rhythm.
Regular exercise can help the body feel more energized during the day, but can also make it easier to fall asleep at night by promoting better hormone production within the body.
Cut out caffeine
Avoid caffeine intake at least three to four hours before bedtime; otherwise, the compound can stay in your system and keep you more alert, which can distract from falling asleep.
Be selective about naps
Quick naps here and there can refresh the body especially when it’s more fatigued than normal. But regular napping can make it harder to get a full night’s sleep.
Block out noise
You might consider adding a white noise machine or just turning on a fan to help block out the surrounding noises that can keep you away.
A cool room between 67 and 68 degrees is ideal for proper sleep, and can help maintain better sleeping cycles.
Natural products for better sleep
Along with the tips above, a few basic products can work wonders to help you get more sleep naturally. Instead of turning to sleeping pills, the following options can help reset internal cycles without the drastic side effects. Adding one or more to a nighttime routine can be the key to maximizing sleep results.
This eye pillow microwave-safe so you can warm it up to help alleviate aches and soothe muscles while also blocking out excess light. It contains lavender as well, an essential oil that helps relax the mind and promotes better sleep.
What do magnesium, melatonin, L-Glycine, L-Tryptophan, 5-HTP and L-Theanine all have in common? They can help promote a restful sleep, and you'll find them all in this lemon-lime-flavored powder from Youtheory. Simply mix a scoop into a glass of water before bed sip your way to better Zzz's.
Natural herbal tea has calming effects and has long been used to help promote better sleeping habits. Gaia’s formula includes chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower, all herbs known to relax the body.
This blend of natural ingredients includes herbs as well as natural amino acids, including valerian, hops flowers, and tryptophan (the compound in turkey that makes you sleepy). They work together to help you fall asleep fast, get more restful sleep, and fall into a regular cycle.
This spray is non-habit-forming and non-narcotic, and uses natural herbal ingredients to help one fall into a deeper, more restful sleep. It’s perfect for occasional sleeping troubles and is safe to use for anyone, including children.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho