If the transition from winter to spring has you tossing and turning at night, you’re not alone. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that on average 50 to 70 million people are affected by sleep-related problems, and the change of seasons can be particularly disruptive to your peaceful snooze time. Here’s why — and 10 ways to sleep soundly year ’round.
“Our bodies need a set amount of sleep to feel refreshed,” says Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, an internal medicine physician and author of Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves. “For adults, that amount averages 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep. Most of us are already chronically sleep-deprived, only getting 5 to 6 hours of sleep nightly.”
“When we ‘spring forward’ or ‘fall back’ and fail to adjust our bedtime,” she adds, “we compromise our ability to maintain those needed hours of rejuvenation.”
To help you adjust, SheKnows gathered tips from several health and sleep experts:
Every breath you take can affect your sleep
April showers bring May flowers, but they also usher in allergy season. “One of the most powerful things women can do to sleep well during allergy season is to maintain good nasal hygiene, for example by using a neti pot or other nasal rinse,” recommends Dr. Emerson M. Wickwire, co-director of the Center for Sleep Disorders in Maryland. “Pollen and other allergens negatively impact our breathing at night, and women are especially susceptible to these subtle breathing disturbances, which can wreak havoc on sleep.”
Prepare for the time change
When it’s time to “fall back” or “spring forward,” Dr. Dalton-Smith advises counting backward from the time you need to wake by 8 hours. “This will be your daily bedtime,” she explains. “Now adjust that forward 15 minutes daily the week before Daylight Saving Time changes (or adjust back 15 minutes for standard time change). By the day of the change you will be well-rested and back on schedule.”
Fade to black to get to bed
“The longer days make us want to stay up late,” says Dr. Dalton-Smith. But she cautions we should “resist the temptation to allow sunlight to pour into every window until the late evening hours.”
To create a dark atmosphere, she suggests investing in a pair of blackout blinds or curtains designed to promote darkness even in the brightest sunlight. “Put these in the areas of your home you occupy during the evening and begin creating darkness around 8 p.m. each night (earlier if you have kids). By the time it’s bedtime, your body will have already started settling down.”
Eat for sleep
“Most of us enjoy an evening snack, and this habit can be used to help promote high-quality sleep throughout the seasons,” says Dr. Dalton-Smith. “Focus on foods that contain magnesium, calcium, and potassium. This combination of nutrients increases serotonin and melatonin levels in the body.”
For a nighttime snack she recommends a yogurt parfait with low-fat or Greek yogurt, bananas and strawberries, topped with almond slivers to stabilize muscle and nerve fibers. If you suffer from hot flashes, opt for a fruit smoothie or a bowl of whole-grain cereal with soymilk. The natural plant estrogens in soy will help to ease those hormonal fluctuations at night and lead to better sleep.
Limit stimulants for quality Z’s
Dr. Dalton-Smith says stimulating activities too close to bedtime produce a surge of endorphins that are counterproductive to good sleep. Avoid paying bills or discussing financial stressors in the late evening hours. Limit the use of caffeine within 4 hours of bedtime. Cut back on all fluid consumption 2 hours before your bed time, as a full bladder can become the stimulant that prevents you from staying asleep throughout the night. Avoid evening snacks high in refined sugars like cookies or ice cream to prevent a late-night sugar high.