If you asked me a few years ago to name things I did well, sleep would have been on that list. I was one of those annoying people who would fall asleep within seconds, sleeping peacefully until the alarm sounded.
My sleep-wake cycle was a well-oiled machine, only occasionally disrupted by parenting duties and the nocturnal cat.
Then, something changed — I blame stress, the pandemic, politics, and aging. My sleep cycle was turned upside down and inside out forcing my peaceful flock of sheep to permanently flee. Now, any slight adjustment to my sleep schedule can create significant disruptions to my routine including the bi-yearly Daylight Savings Time change.
Knowing this, I start preparing early for the clock shift by doing these simple things.
Wake up earlier by 10 minutes every day before the time change
The week before springing forward with the clock, I begin moving my alarm earlier by ten minutes every day. For example, I usually wake at 6:30 a.m. on weekday mornings. On Monday of this week, I woke at 6:20 a.m. By Friday, I will be waking up at 5:40 a.m., almost one hour earlier than my typical wake-up time.
This slow shifting of my alarm clock helps prepare my body for "losing" an hour of sleep on Sunday and prevents me from being too tired and irritable on Monday.
Hold that position
I am not someone who does yoga regularly, but I read that the Viparita Karani yoga pose, or “legs up the wall," can help prepare the body for sleep. I have tried the pose many times, and it does seem to help me fall asleep easier.
It is a relatively simple technique of lying on your back and reaching your legs straight up towards the ceiling. You can rest your legs against the headboard, a wall, or lift your legs without support. Hold the pose and breathe deeply.
This position helps to increase blood flow and circulation which encourages a relaxation response and has been a great addition to my evening routine.
Sleep inducing sounds
When I'm trying to regulate my sleep schedule, I turn on the sound machine.
Research shows that pink noise, such as rainfall, ocean waves, and leaves rustling in the wind, promotes better sleep. It uses deeper sounds and a more consistent frequency than white noise (a fan) which makes it especially soothing.
If you don't have a sound machine, there are numerous mobile phone apps that offer these soothing sounds including Insight Timer.
Visualization is a beneficial technique for relaxing the mind and body before bed. In your mind's eye, visualize a soothing scene, such as sitting on a beach watching the ocean waves. Your attention shifts away from stress and towards calm as you immerse yourself fully in the experience.
A helpful sleep-specific visualization exercise is the chalkboard technique. Close your eyes and envision a chalkboard with one piece of chalk and an eraser. Pick up the chalk and write a large 100 on the board. Then, slowly erase the number until it is completely gone. Repeat the process with the number 99, and continue counting backward until you fall asleep.
This repetitive action is calming and helps you unwind both mentally and physically which assists with falling asleep.
Although some would prefer not to spring forward with the clock, the good news is that we can make it a little easier on ourselves with these sleep tips.
If you start shifting your schedule now, you can ease the transition. Also, consider incorporating yoga, visual imagery, and the soothing sounds of the ocean into your nightly routine. You might be surprised at how well you sleep!
This article is intended for educational purposes only, not as a substitute for professional help. I am a psychologist, but I am not your psychologist. You can find a behavioral health provider in your local area here.
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