Many people look forward to that extra hour of sleep, but it’s not enough to erase chronic sleep debt, said Dr. Kannan Ramar, professor of medicine at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
However, the additional hour of rest could have you waking up feeling more refreshed, which may motivate you to get more shut-eye, he said.
This is a great time to implement healthy “sleep hygiene” practices, which will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep, Ramar said.
He recommended going to sleep around the same time each night, making sure you’re going to sleep early enough to get seven to eight hours of rest.
In the 30 minutes before bedtime, begin shutting off electronics to limit your exposure to light, Ramar explained.
If after 20 minutes you can’t fall sleep, get out of bed and do a quiet activity like meditation, he said. This is not the time to jump back on your electronics, he warned.
Avoid eating a large meal before bedtime, and cut off your caffeine intake in the afternoon, Ramar advised. Make sure to reduce your fluid intake before bed and avoid alcohol around this time, he added.
If those tips do not work for you, Ramar recommended you speak to a medical professional.
A rise in seasonal affective disorder
As the nights grow longer and the weather becomes bleaker in parts of the country, people may develop seasonal affective disorder. It’s a specific type of depression that often begins in the fall and ends in the spring, said Michelle Drerup, director of behavioral sleep medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center in Ohio.
Some common symptoms include irritability, extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate, carbohydrate cravings, anxiety and withdrawal from social activities, she said.
The time change from Daylight Saving Time ending can trigger SAD, Drerup said.
Light exposure boosts mood
People with seasonal affective disorder should try to expose themselves to bright, natural light when possible, said Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, an addiction psychiatrist and sleep physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The rays of light increase the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, known as the “happy hormone.”
Those in gloomier parts of the country can use a light box to mimic sunlight, he said.
If you notice the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are significantly impacting your ability to function for more than two weeks, Drerup recommended seeing a doctor. A medical professional can help diagnose you, evaluate for other possible mental health conditions, and provide a personalized treatment plan.