Although it comes around twice every year (the first Sunday of April & the last Sunday of September), Daylight Savings still manages to catch us all by surprise. Waking up on Sunday morning to find the clocks have turned back or forward an hour doesn’t necessarily mean that our internal body clock has made the same adjustments.
Dr Karyn O’Keeffe, a senior research officer at Massey University’s Sleep/Wake Research Centre, says even though the amount of sleep lost during the daylight saving change seems small, it can have a big impact on our safety, health and productivity.
“Studies have shown that in the days following the change to daylight saving time sleep is shorter, we are sleepier, we might experience negative mood changes, and accident and injury rates increase...
...Daylight saving challenges your internal timekeeper, the circadian body clock, because suddenly your internal body clock time and the external time of the sun are no longer aligned. Your body clock does not immediately shift following the change to daylight saving time, so it can take a few days for it to adjust and your body to recover.”
Dr Karyn O’Keeffe, a senior research officer at Massey University
The side-effects of Daylight Savings always hit particularly hard on the first week back to work and can be even harder for parents with young children who have only just conquered the bedtime brawl.
The good news is, there are many ways you can help bring your body back into balance. Here are our top tips to help your body and mind move seamlessly through the daylight saving challenges, so that you can make the most of it.
1. Get outside
Now the days are getting longer, make the most of the extra sunlight and get outdoors. Whether it is in the morning, the evening, or even your lunch break; sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, a natural mood booster! With children, it is important to create a routine that will help them to get to sleep, especially when the sun is still out! Take them for a bike ride or a walk in the evening; this will enhance their natural vitamin D and boost their mood, so that they will be happier going to bed.
2. Control the light
Melatonin is our body’s sleep hormone. It increases as the sun goes down, inducing sleep, and decreases as the sun rises, supporting our alertness. It can be confusing for children, when we ask them to go to bed when the sun is up, and to wake up when it is just rising, especially as their melatonin levels are likely not at optimal levels.
To help melatonin increase naturally, ask them to help pull all the curtains around the areas they spend time in before bed, and turn a dim light on in these areas. In the morning, ensure children get some natural light, to assist melatonin regulation; have breakfast outside, go for a walk around the block before school or simply ensure curtains are opened, as soon as they wake up.
3. Switch off Electronics before bed
Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body's internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), as the blue light exposure, as well as the brain stimulation suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Wind down - have an hour of quiet time before bed instead, ensure that all electronics are off an hour before bed, read, have a bath or listen to gentle music.
4. Add magnesium-rich foods in your diet
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Magnesium nourishes the nervous system and helps the body to relax. As our soil is deficient in magnesium, it is important that we eat a diet high in magnesium-rich foods. Great food sources of magnesium include almonds, buckwheat, dark chocolate and green leafy vegetables. Ensure your family is having a variety of these foods throughout the day, and especially in the evening, to help induce sleep. Magnesium works to help our parasympathetic nervous system to relax and calm, helping melatonin support healthy sleep/wake cycles in the body.
5. Help your children adjust with the new time
About a week before daylight savings starts, or as soon as you can, begin to adjust your little one’s nap times, mealtimes and bedtime routine by 15 minutes each day. Continue to do this until you have progressively adjusted their routine to an hour later/earlier than usual. It’s only a small amount of time each day and if you do it gradually, they will barely notice.
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In the first few days, try to be more forgiving as it is likely children will be over tired and frustrated. Understanding that this is temporary will help them to adjust better.
The main thing to keep in mind is that a good bedtime routine, ensures that little children get plenty of shut-eye, even if this means they have longer naps during the day.
And just as children have a hard time adjusting adults do too, so don’t forget to look after yourself! All these tips can be applied to mum and dad alike, so practice them with your children and help the whole family adjust, seamlessly.