Updated: Apr 9, 2019
SPRING FORWARD IT'S TIME TO CHANGE YOUR BODY CLOCK 31.3.2019
With British Summer Time beginning this weekend, we spring forward into lighter mornings and the start of the longer days. However, this also means the loss of one hour’s sleep. You need to get to sleep because your alarm will be going off at 6am but your body will still think it’s 5am. Don’t under estimate how important that one hour is to your health, physical and mental. The more you think about how much you must get to sleep, the harder it is to do so. So you toss and turn for what seems like hours, fretting knowing the alarm will be going off before you know it. But why does one hour make such a difference to your sleep?
Do you often struggle with sleep?
Do you go to bed at night exhausted? Do you turn off the light climb into bed your head hits the pillow and then your mind starts racing? Do you toss and turn and then get more wound up as you cannot get to sleep? Or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep but don’t even know why?
Don’t worry, you are not alone, we live in a time where our lives are 24-7, our mobiles are never off (unless the battery dies), emails never stop, there are chores to be done, family to care for, work to be done, let’s face it – there are simply not enough hours in the day. On top of all that we are constantly worried and stressed, even about things we shouldn’t.
Why do we need sleep?
Sleep, we all need it. It is the biggest single contributor to living better1. As adults we need between 6 to 9 hours. Why? Our bodies go to work at night repairing and rebuilding us as we sleep. Sleep helps your body function, it helps improve your mood, helps boost our brain power and increase our memory and concentration. It is also greatly benefits our physical health and even our weight can be affected by lack of sleep as our appetite hormones change (see there really is a reason for midnight binges).
Why can this one hour affect us so much?
Our bodies are built with an internal clock. This is often referred to as the circadian rhythm, or our sleep/wake cycle or body clock. Understanding this is the first step to better sleep. This helps us to naturally regulate our feelings and need for sleep or for wakefulness (dependant on the light or the dark outside) over a 24-hour (24.5 to be exact) period.
With the way we run our lives these days, we have learnt to ignore and override these natural instincts, by using artificial lights, stimulus like TV and gadgets, and even working odd shifts and working too many hours. This has led to us having ‘sleep deficits’ and therefore the changes in the time saving system, with the spring 1-hour deduction, only leads to our body clocks becoming even more confused!
Learn more about your body clock here with this great explanation from the BBC: www.bbc.co.uk/bodyclock
How can we combat the sleep deprivation?
Good news is there is a lot we can look at in order to get you prepared to cope with this lost hour, and try and get you back into a good sleep pattern at any time of the year. Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep all year round:
MY TOP 5 TIPS FOR YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT - YOUR BEDROOM
Give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep by getting your sleep environment as comfortable as possible. Sometimes, you don’t have the choice, but there is something you can always consider when it’s time for sleep no matter where you are:
1. Your bed - Is it comfortable? Is it over 7 years old? If it is it might be time to invest in a new bed; you spend a lot of time in it after all. We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping2 (well we try too).
2. Lighting - Have you low light options in you room? Switch to low lights, lamps or diffused sources of light as you get ready for bed. Consider black out blinds or even an eye mask if you find outside light disturbing you, especially early morning light during the Spring and Summer months (which will start with the clocks going forward!).
3. Temperature - What is the temperature in your room? Like the three bears, some like it hot and some like it cold, and some like it just right (not too hot or too cold). The recommended temperature is 16 to 18 degrees but find the temperature that works best for you.
4. Alarm Clock – We are all guilty of using our mobile phone as an alarm clock, but it may be wise to consider buying a separate alarm clock. This means that you can leave your phone in another room and keep your bedroom as a no phone zone. Your bedroom is your “do not disturb” place of peace from the outside world, quality time for you or you and your partner.
5. No Tech Zone – Again the bedroom is our retreat and sometimes the only place we get peace to read or watch things on iPad, tablets, phones and the TV, but maybe it is time to leave these, like your shoes, at the bedroom door and treat it like your ‘No Tech Haven’. Being over stimulated, and the effects of ‘Blue light’3 often given out by such tech have been shown to significantly affect the quality of and the ability to sleep.
MY TOP 7 TIPS FOR TAKING ACTION - LOOK AT YOUR LIFESTYLE
These days most of us lead busy lives packing a lot into our day. By the evening our senses are on full alert and we are wound up more than a ball of elastic bands. Introducing habits into your day and evening patterns to allow those heightened senses to calm down and relax will give you the best chance of a good nights sleep.
ACTIONS – Some things to try:
1. Put down your mobile phone at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime
2. Cut down on caffeine throughout the day and in the evening after 6pm
3. Avoid alcohol (even for a little while, tough one I know, but you will thank me)
4. Exercise during the day or early evening really does help to tire the body and release stress from the mind as well as the body. It doesn’t have to mean going to a gym or running. Take a simple walk or go for a swim, anything that allows you to get out and be physical and allows you to focus on what you are doing and switch off from the day.
5. Your diet might be affecting your sleep. Try changing your eating patterns as well as your food. If you eat late at night try eating a little earlier every night or change from a large evening meal to a lighter one. If you are a snack monster, try and stop snacking a bit earlier before bed. Equally, we are what we eat, so try and make sure you have a balanced diet as much as possible (everyone is allowed treats, just not every night).
6. Find a way to relax. Easier said than done. Try taking a bath, reading a book, listen to calming music. Mindfulness can be really powerful, try tuning in to your body, listening to your own breathing and maybe try some breathing exercises. Try my Sleep Help audio recording available for free here if you want to be guided through some relaxation and breathing exercises.
7. If you feel stressed, worried and anxious then learning to calm the mind down and switch off is key to preventing your mind from keeping you awake. Again, this isn’t always easy, and sometimes, white noise, maybe a radio or soothing music on low whilst you drift off may help (just remember to set a timer as you don’t want it to wake you back up!).
TOP TIP FOR CALMING YOUR BUSY MIND
Often, I find, when talking to clients, it is 9 out of 10 times, due to a busy mind that they cannot get the sleep they require. Stress, worry, anxiety all play their part. However, there are ways to help. Here are two techniques you can try for slowing down and switching off your mind:
SIMPLY BREATH – A BREATHING EXERCISE
Here is a simple breathing exercise you can try when you head hits the pillow and you’re ready to sleep.
1. Focus your mind on your breathing for 3 or 4 breaths.
2. Then take a long deep breath in
3. Exhale fully focussing your mind on your body and how it feels
4. Repeat the inhale and exhale a few times and then slow down the exhale to last twice as long as the inhale breath
5. If you find your mind wander off just simply bring it back to your breathing.
There are many breathing exercises to be found but this is a simple technique, easy to practice and is a great place to start.
JUST RELAX – A RELAXATION RECORDING
I have a progressive relaxation recording (mentioned under my top 7 tips for taking action)which you can download FREE from my website.
This recording lasts for approximately 10 minutes and guides you through relaxing the body, focussing the mind on the body and your breathing to take you into a nice peaceful state ready to sleep.
If after trying everything you can to improve your quality of sleep you find that you are still struggling to sleep then visit your GP to discuss this further. Do not allow your lack of sleep affect your health, mental and physical, as this will affect your quality of life, and none of us want that!
If you have any further question about sleep and would like to speak with me further about them, then please feel free to contact me at the details below, I am here to help you!
Information sources referenced in this article:
1Sainsbury’s Living Well Index