woman sleeping at desk

Is the Time Change Zapping Your Energy?


woman sleeping at desk

My client emailed me last night asking for suggestions to combat daylight savings time fatigue. When I read through her email, it dawned on me that I, too, am suffering from this annoying issue.

Though I can blame a good portion of my exhaustion on this nagging congestion, it never occurred to me that the time change is also to blame. Arizona doesn’t recognize DST, so this is something I didn’t experience while living there. I know it took me a good three weeks to regulate my sleep-wake cycle after moving from Pacific to Central time, and now I feel like I’m doing it all over again.

Thanks to my client, I was able to investigate the cause of both of our fatigue and come up with some sort of answer—although not exactly the perfect solution.

Sleep expert Dr. Shyam Subramanian told NBC News that daylight savings time fatigue only affects 20-30 percent of the population. So for those not affected, it’s hard for them to grasp the health risks involved with the issue.

The time change disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, so when your body is regulated to fall asleep at a certain time and wake up at a certain time, things go haywire when that can’t happen.

You would think that ‘gaining’ an hour would actually benefit those who are affected by time change. But when you are used to waking up at 6 am and going to bed at 10 am, it’s hard to keep your eyes open past the evening news and you end up waking long before your body is ready.

For my client, she’s having a hard time keeping her eyes open past 9 pm. She arrives home from work in a daze, with little to no energy for housework or exercise. I nod my head with empathy because I feel the exact same way. I barely get my kids into bed before I sack out, and I end up waking an hour or more before my alarm is set to go off.

It’s also tough when the sun goes down at 5:30pm and you can’t get outside for normal evening activities. I know a regular routine for my family is to head to the park after dinner where I do my running. This has abruptly stopped because there is no lighting at the park.

When your schedule is disrupted, it’s hard to find ways to engage yourself in normal activity. Neither my client or I feel compelled to scrub the bathroom at 5 am or strap on our running shoes to head out for a 3 mile run. We feel just plain exhausted.

If you are in the same time-change stupor, here are a few tips I found to help your body revamps it’s circadian rhythm.

 

  1. Get some sunshine early in the day. I suggest waking up and having your breakfast or coffee outside (weather permitting). Sunshine early in the morning helps shut of your melatonin production—the hormone responsible for putting you in a deep slumber.
  2. Put the breaks of late-day caffeine. Coffee and tea first thing in the morning are fine, but avoid caffeinated beverages after lunchtime.
  3. Shut off the lights after the sun goes down. Okay, you don’t have to sit in complete darkness. But keeping your home brightly lit by artificial lighting will confuse your sleep hormones, making it difficult for your body to sense the difference between daylight and nighttime.
  4. Be patient. Your body will adjust, but it takes time. Each day you can slowly change your sleeping pattern by staying up 10 minutes later. Hopefully within a week you will stay up an hour later, making it to bed at your usual time. In turn, this may allow you to sleep that extra hour.
  5. Don’t give up exercise. This is tough when you feel drained of energy. But exercise will actually help increase your energy during the day and aid in better sleep.
  6. Avoid alcohol during the work week. Though it relaxes you, alcohol can actually disrupt your sleep. Studies suggest that alcohol increases light sleep patterns while decreasing deep sleep patterns, making you restless later in the night.
  7. Stay hydrated. When you’re tired it’s easy to slip up on water consumption, but staying hydrated will help your body regulate natural processes.

 

I hope that you don’t suffer time change fatigue, but if you do these tips may encourage your body to get back on track. If you have any other tips or suggestions to combat fatigue, please share them in the comments below.

 

 

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