A small change in your routine can make a big difference to your mood says Colleen Carney, an expert on sleep and insomnia. As the director of Ryerson University's sleep and depression lab in Toronto she makes it her business to study the habits of successful sleepers and those who sleep too little or too much.
Carney says "even one poor night's sleep can lead to chronic insomnia" so the first Sunday in November, with the switch from daylight saving time back to standard time, is a good opportunity to review our general sleep habits.
"At this time of the year when we actually change the cues in the environment as we perceive them, we can feel some symptoms as we try and adjust to the new local time."
Although with the "fall back" we actually gain a precious hour of sleep on Sunday morning, says Carney, sleep hygiene is something that affects as all year round. But we can take charge of our sleep routine, she says. The consequences of poor sleep such as fatigue, concentration problems, and negative mood can often be avoided by practising a few simple sleep habits.
'We think we outgrow the need for routines'
The main thing to remember, says Carney, is to keep a regular schedule. She says we all know that babies and toddlers can become grumpy when their nap and sleep routines are disrupted. But it's just as important for adults to follow a routine.
"As adults, we think we outgrow the need for routines", says Carney. "We actually don't." The fact is, she says, we all need a routine in order to set our internal clocks every day. That's why it's important to pay particular attention both in the spring when we switch to daylight time and in the fall when we switch back to standard time. And a good night's sleep should not require effort. After all, she says, "sleep is the one thing for which too much effort can be counterproductive."
Carney offers five sleep tips to help you adjust to this weekend's time change and avoid the consequences of poor sleep in the future.
5 sleep tips
- Get up at the same time every morning: If you change when you get up each morning it creates jet lag symptoms, such as drowsiness, sluggishness and mood changes.
- Get enough sleep: If you fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow or you doze off at other times of the day you are probably sleep deprived. During times of sleep deprivation we get messages to sleep more.
- Don't sleep too much: If you spend too much time in bed it sends messages to the brain that you should get less sleep and can cause depression and insomnia. During times of inactivity and over-sleeping, we get messages to sleep less.
- Wind down before bed: Shut off your electronic devices and refrain from working an hour before bed to lower stress and create calm.
- Eat well and exercise: Manage fatigue by staying hydrated, eating well and being physically active.