Changing clocks: advice from Ingrid Fournier, sophrologist, on how to live this moment with serenity
Published Oct 21, 2023 • By Ingrid Fournier
This year, Daylight Saving Time in the United States fell on March 12, 2023 and will end on November 5, 2023, when our watches and alarm clocks will go back an hour. This will give us an extra hour's sleep.
However, this extra hour can disrupt our circadian cycle. The circadian cycle acts like an internal clock, regulating the body's waking and sleeping phases.
So what are the consequences of clock changing for our sleep and energy levels? What can we do to cope better with it?
Sophrologist Ingrid Fournier shares some tips for a stress-free clock changing!
Changing clocks: everything there is to know!
The circadian cycle governs almost all our biological functions, including sleeping and eating. It is this cycle that triggers the secretion of melatonin at the end of the day to prepare us for sleep. It also raises our temperature in the morning and triggers the secretion of cortisol to prepare us for waking up.
For the body to be able to perform the functions that correspond to day or night at the right time, it needs to be synchronized with the Earth's day. So, every day, the internal clock has to be reset. This synchronization is achieved by :
- Physical activity,
- Outside temperature.
Exposure to light during the day and darkness at night synchronizes our biological clock with the 24-hour day.
However, changing clocks in autumn will add an hour to our social clock and disrupt our biological clock.
This can cause a shift in our internal clock, which needs to be resynchronized: it generally returns to its normal rhythm within a week.
The disadvantage of changing clocks is that the day gets shorter, and this has an impact on our mood because we don't get enough daylight. We perceive night earlier, melatonin is secreted earlier and we want to sleep earlier in the evening. We feel as though we are slipping into a kind of lethargy, which can be unpleasant for some people.
We may also feel tired and lack enthusiasm for certain activities.
Some useful tips on how to prepare for clock-changing
The week before clock-changing
There are ways to make the transition easier and reduce the effects of clock-changing on our bodies and minds. I'm going to share with you a few simple and easy-to-apply rules for living through this change with peace of mind.
It may come as a surprise, but shifting your dinner time is better than shifting your bedtime.
So, the week before the clocks will change, move your dinner time forward by 10 minutes on first two evenings. Then on the following days, eat 10 minutes earlier every evening until Saturday.
You can use this extra time before bed to relax, meditate, read or try out some relaxation exercises.
If you're worried about your sleep, you can start to gradually adjust your bedtime by shifting it by 10 to 15 minutes. This can reassure you and take away some of the stress or anxiety about the time change. However, it's important to feel the sleep signals before going to bed and enjoying your night.
On the day the clocks change
On Sunday, when the clocks have changed, get up as soon as you wake up.
There is no point staying in bed if you're not sleeping.
You can make the most of the day by planning an outdoor activity or outing that you wouldn't have had time for without the extra hour.
You can plan a visit to one of your town's sights, a nice walk in the forest, by the sea or in the countryside to enjoy the light and do some sport. A moment's reading in a park or a coffee on a terrace can also be beneficial.
This way, when daylight starts to fade, you'll feel as though you've made the most of your Sunday.
The following days
If you work early and come home late, try to expose yourself to as much natural light as possible at the weekend.
You can also get into the habit of taking a walk for ten minutes or so before or after lunch.
If it is difficult for you to move around, you can try sitting by your window.
Whatever the level of light outside, expose yourself to light every day to resynchronize your clock, as light is the primary synchronizer of your internal clock.
It will be important to continue to be physically active or to practice sport to stimulate the sleep-wake rhythm and exert sufficient sleep pressure.
Your sleep patterns can be disrupted for some time
You may have trouble falling asleep because you are not asleep at your usual time. There's no point in going to bed if you don't feel the signals indicating that you want to sleep (tingling eyes, heavy eyelids, sluggish attention, feeling cold, shivering, yawning, etc.).
You may go to bed a little later than usual for the first few days. But your internal clock will gradually readjust itself over the following weeks.
You may also find it difficult to wake up. As I mentioned earlier, there is not enough light to give you a satisfactory wake-up signal.
During autumn and winter, your rhythm will inevitably be different. These seasons also allow you to slow down and recharge your batteries.
This can be the perfect time to take care of yourself, to create a cosy atmosphere in your home so that you can enjoy being at home in the evening.
This can be an opportunity to set up some useful routines, such as gentle stretching in the morning to wake you up, or a calm creative activity to help you calm down at the end of the day.
If you have severe sleep issues, changing the clocks can make them worse. In this case, don't hesitate to see a sleep specialist who can help you manage your problems.
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