Make the Most of the Time Change and Sleep Better Tonight

This morning was rough guys. This time change has made it hard for me to fall asleep and get up in the morning. If you’re like me, the time change can wreak havoc on your mood, sleep cycle and overall well-being. The clocks changed Sunday at 2 am, which means we gained an hour of sleep (woohoo!) but that extra hour doesn’t mean we actually get more mattress time. The dark afternoons and early morning sun make it harder to fall asleep and, unless you’ve got some awesome blackout shades, get ready to rise earlier. The reason this is important is because your beautiful mind and body needs quality sleep. Lets be honest, if you’re going to rule the world you’ve got to get quality sleep so you can wake up refreshed and ready to talk on anything! Without it, you won’t be feeling your best.
Girl in the fall leaves - Time Change - Daylight Saving

The time change and the darker days make more people feel depressed, anxious and unhappy during the fall and winter months. Don’t let this be you! The time change doesn’t have to impact you in a negative way. Here are some great tips to get you through the darker months with ease.

You may be thinking, well at least we gained an hour. Sure, but that doesn’t make it much easier in the long run. Adjusting in the fall can feel easier than in spring but it’s not. You may think you’re getting that extra hour but it’s likely throwing you off.  Get this: the sun sets closer to 5 pm, meaning the sun has normally gone down by the time you leave work. Plus the sun is up even earlier than usual (ugh). This can affect your mood and overall happiness, leading to seasonal depression in some or triggering a depressive episode in others. For me, when the sun blares in my window at 5 am I crawl under the covers. This isn’t always good, once I fall back to sleep it’s way harder for me to wake up on time, which is common. The time change makes a lot of people dysregulated. Here’s why:


How the Time Change Messes With Your Head

Girl Drinking Coffee - Time Change - Daylight SavingEven a one-hour shift in the sleep cycle can affect sleep says a new study in Sleep Medicine Reviews. Again you may think that “falling back” is better but get this: many of us don’t even get that extra hour!  We are creatures of habit and our bodies depend on our habits to keep us in check. If you wake earlier and have trouble falling asleep at night you are likely hurting your health.

Lack of Sleep Impacts Your Mind, Body & Spirit

Sleep loss causes tremendous strains on your body and the brain such as:

  • Forgetfulness. When you sleep, your brain detoxifies toxins. Without enough sleep you have a hard time retaining information because your brain isn’t running optimally.
  • Depression. Lack of sleep can cause depression. A 2007 study of 10,000 people found that those who didn’t sleep well were five times more likely to develop depression and suffer from anxiety.
  • Anger issues. You may notice that you have a shorter fuse after a night or two without sufficient sleep. When you don’t sleep enough, your emotions can control you! The chemicals that help you feel calm and happy decrease, leaving your brain with less support to combat negative emotions.
  • Fuzzy focus. When you don’t sleep, it becomes difficult for you to concentrate. You may be drifting off at work or zoning out. You might walk into a room and forget what you were looking for. You might even forget where you parked the car.

The time change wouldn’t be a problem if we were living like the Amish or if we all were farmers, but most of us are not. Our brains don’t turn on and off with the sun and the moon. What makes the darker days even more frustrating for most of us are deeply rooted in our habits. I mean hello, Monday Night Football and Modern Family come on way after the sun sets, and many of us don’t even get home before 7 pm. We don’t live in a world where the time change works with us, it actually works against us.

In order to combat all the side effects of the time change Dr. Praveen Rudraraju, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., suggests taking advantage of the early sun before work in the morning and taking me time for exercising or just sitting down with a cup of coffee.

Take Control of Your Sleep Even with the Time Change

Fall leaves - Time Change - Daylight SavingIt may take a few days to get comfortable with the time change. If you notice that you are getting less sleep, are more irritable or lethargic you may need to really spend a full week on a schedule (I know this sucks). But your focus, metabolism and well-being need that rest in order to function optimally. Here are a few ways you can make the most of the time change.

  • Exercise. It’s beautiful outside. Try to exercise outdoors. It will raise your heart rate and give you energy and some vitamin D, which your body desperately needs during those dark days. If you can take advantage of the early morning sunshine, it will help you get to sleep earlier in the evening. Exercising at night can be great BUT it keeps you energized which makes it harder to fall asleep.
  • Don’t eat dinner too late. I love dinnertime. It gets me so excited and I usually eat pretty late. But when I learned that it was keeping me up at night, I started eating an hour earlier. See, the digestion process takes 2-3 hours to metabolize food, which means your body doesn’t want to sleep, its working! If you eat dinner at 5 or 6 and don’t head to bed until 11, you may need a bit of a snack but keep it 2-3 hours before you shut off the lights. You don’t want to wake up to hunger pains either.
  • Invest in blackout shades or an awesome eye mask.  Even if you are one of those ‘morning people’ you don’t need to wake up this early if you’re not sleeping at night. An eye mask or some dark shades can really help you keep your brain from going bonkers. See when the time changes, the sun will come out earlier. Light slows down the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. So the darker you keep your bedroom the better.
  • Put your phone away. I know I sound like I’m nuts for saying this BUT studies show that the light from your phone (blue light) and from the TV suppress the secretion of melatonin. All light impacts your brain’s ability to sleep but blue light does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers have found that blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. I’ve found that putting it near my bed, but not on my nightstand can keep me from looking at it when I should really be trying to fall asleep.

So if your still sorta bummed that the days are getting sorter, try your best to wake up a little earlier to enjoy the sun. If your sleep has become problematic, meaning you’re getting under six or over 10 hours, you need to talk to your doc. Something may be really out of wack and it may be a little adjustment in vitamins or nutrients. Sleep is vital for your mind, body and spirit, don’t put of this act of self-care.

Take Good Care,


*   *   *   *   *

Emily Roberts MA, LPC is The Guidance Girl. Her goal is to help YOU become the most confident person you know! Emily is an award-winning author Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, Educational Speaker, and parenting consultant. She travels around the country educating girls, women, and parents. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.

About the Author:

Emily Roberts, M.A., LPC is a Psychotherapist, Parenting Consultant, Educational Speaker and Published Author. Her Book Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are was published by New Harbinger Publications. The Guidance Girl is a concept created by Emily as an innovative, powerful approach to help you achieve goals and feel your best by redefining traditional therapy for the girls and women of today.

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