People in seventy different countries will be “falling back” once again this weekend, setting their clocks behind an hour.
I know what you’re thinking: Saturday night and you get to sleep in a bit longer than you otherwise might have. However, a number of recent studies have shown that we do not gain from this, but that the negative effects can linger for a week or longer.
Keeping the Rhythm
Human beings, like all other mammals, have a sleep cycle that is intimately tied to the 24-hour day. Our bodies gravitate toward sleep when the sun goes down and wake during the sunrise. This cycle is known as the circadian rhythm. While we obviously don’t adhere to only being awake during the daytime and only sleeping at night time, our unconscious brain is attuned to the daily cycle, and when the variation is across the normal seasonal cycles, we adapt fairly easily to the changing availability of daylight.
What is Daylight Savings Time Doing to Us?
However, we chose to introduce an artificial interruption in this cycle, and its effect on our bodies has only recently been understood. This change is similar to jet lag, and can lead to grogginess, problems maintaining attention and alertness, and even some more deleterious effects. A Swedish study in 2008 found a slight increase in the likelihood of heart attacks in the three days following the change-over.
What can we do?
Other than writing a strongly worded letter to your congressperson, there’s nothing you can do to get around DST. There are ways to mitigate its effects on your sleep for the following week. First, it’s important to understand what melatonin is, and what its relationship is with the circadian sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the Pineal gland deep inside our brains. In normal circumstances, melatonin is secreted into our bloodstreams as the night approaches - usually around two hours before your bedtime - and peaks around 3-4 a.m. in a standard sleep cycle. The function of melatonin appears to be diverse, acting as the “darkness” hormone, and in a sense ‘triggering’ or ‘synchronizing’ the necessary functions in the brain that tell the body to sleep.
The disruption caused by the DST on our normal circadian rhythm, especially during our ‘fall-back’ transition, means we have trouble falling asleep, and once asleep, often can’t stay asleep, or sleep soundly. Natural remedies can include introducing some supplemental melatonin into your diet prior to bedtime. Utzy’s Micro Melatonin offers a more gentle dosage of the hormone, to help you better modulate, and ensure that you don’t wake up too groggy. The transition to earlier bedtimes can be aided by our Fall Asleep formula, which can help you better ease into a more natural transition. Check out our entire Sleep Support System to learn more!