Ah, Daylight Savings Time. Whether it’s “springing forward” in March, or “falling back” in November, most people feel the difference within the first few days of the change. It’s a little more disruptive in the spring—no one likes losing an hour of sleep, after all—but even “gaining” an hour in the fall can throw people’s sleep schedules and moods out of whack.
Here are 3 ways to help you navigate this time change with ease
1. Be aware of your “sleep environment”.
Your circadian rhythm is often a direct result of your “sleep environment”. Of environmental factors, light is the most important. It’s important to be exposed to light during the day and avoid it during the night when you’re nearing sleep. For example, avoiding turning the light on during a mid-sleep bathroom run can help prevent you from ruining your sleep schedule. Other environmental factors that can aid in having a healthy sleep schedule include reducing caffeine and alcohol, exercising a few hours before bed, and having calming rituals—drinking tea, taking a hot bath, etc.—in place.
2. Don’t neglect your nutrition.
Much as many of us love the colder months for their holidays and festive air, there’s no denying that many people experience season mood swings with the lack of sunlight hours. This downturn in mood can cause food cravings—and usually not of the healthy sort. Instead of chowing down on a big bowl of comforting pasta, consider turning to more protein-based options. Not a meat-eater? Worry not—fish, nuts, and other plant-based proteins can be subbed for steak and chicken. Salmon and tuna, in particular, may prove especially beneficial—“One of the most basic ways that omega-3s help to regulate mood is by quieting down the body’s response to inflammation,” says Joe Hibblin of the National Institutes of Health.
3. Fight the winter blues with group activities.
As mentioned previously, seasonal depression is a risk during the darker, colder months. But there are easy ways to combat the winter blues—and one of them is staying socially engaged. Join a community sports team, create a book club, take cooking classes! Whatever tickles your fancy can help keep the worst of the mopes at bay. And for those exposed to minimal sunlight, there are light boxes that can help combat season affective disorder.