If you are like many people, the shift in time and “falling back” with our clocks the passing of day light savings time will mean a bonus hour of sleep and a progressive shift towards shorter and darker days as the sun sets earlier each night. It also means that you’ll likely experience changes in your mood (you may even experience the “winter blues,” otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder), experience lethargy, a loss of motivation, and increased cravings for foods (particularly sweets).
Your sleep and wake cycles are regulated by your circadian rhythm and the amount of day light you are exposed to each day. Your circadian rhythm also affects your appetite and hunger, concentration, mood and desire for foods, particularly sweets that are rich in quickly digested carbohydrates.1,2 Your desire for these foods that leads to more insulin being produced and gaining weight is an evolutionary mechanism to gain weight and “hibernate” for the winter.
It is only because of the year round availability of these foods (e.g., tropical fruit, potatoes, rice) and the artificial changing of time (some states like Hawaii and most of Arizona and most countries in Africa and Asia do not participate in DST. In South America most countries in the north of the continent near the equator do not observe DST, while Paraguay and southern parts of Brazil do.) that you may struggle with “cravings” and judge yourself harshly instead of embracing your body, your changes in dietary cravings and feel “down.”
So rather than reaching for that extra “cup of Joe,” feeling guilty for wanting more foods that may lead to adding a few transient pounds for the winter or engaging in compensatory behaviors (e.g., over exercising and “punishing” your body or skipping meals), be gentle and kind with your body-mind and realign with the seasonal changes in day light, food and “fall forward” instead to stay well this winter.
Focus on spending as much as is feasible for you during the day outside and practice sensible sun light exposure while you avoid the unnecessary use of electronics like your smartphone, your computer or watching T.V. after sunset as these devices emit blue spectrum light that interferes with your pineal gland’s secretion of melatonin and keeps you awake at night. Instead, spend time with your friends and family playing board games, read paper books and magazines, listen to music or develop a hobby like drawing. In addition, make sure that you practice good sleep hygiene to help your sleep improve, reduce your cravings and make smarter choices that will satisfy your cravings for sweets while nourishing your body. To help you, experiment with my suggestions below:
- The most effective and simplest strategy to improve your quality of sleep is going to bed at the same time each evening and waking up at the same time every morning.
- You also want to develop a night time ritual to help you transition into sleep. Try reading or meditating (e.g., Mindfulness Meditation or Loving Kindness Meditation) an hour before you go to bed.
- To help you sleep more easily, it is also important to avoid certain stimuli and avoid drinking or eating within 3 hours of your bed time. Eating before you sleep can interfere with restful sleep as your body is still digesting food.
- As a rule of thumb, you also want to dim the lights in your room or house 2 hours before bed time to help your body produce more melatonin.
- Wear a sleep mask or install black out curtains in your bedroom to keep artificial lights from interfering with your sleep.
- If you must work and use a computer or your smartphone, use software like f.lux to reduce the interference of your computer and IPhone or EasyEyezfor Android.
- Wear orange or red tinted sunglasses like BluBlockers to protect your from blue spectrum lights.
- Swap out you LED light bulbs for incandescent or halogen light bulbs instead to reduce blue spectrum lights in your home at night.
- Set your smartphone on “airplane mode” and unplug your Wi-Fi router at home as you will not be using the internet during your sleep and the EMFs produced by your phone and Wi-Fi router may interfere with your sleep.
- Set the ambient temperature in your bedroom down to at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Your core body temperature drops during sleep and setting your climate control higher can contribute to restless sleep.
- Choose slower digesting foods that will satisfy your “sweet tooth” that are seasonal like cranberries, kiwi fruit, figs, pomegranates, and squashes and pumpkin.
To your health and success,
To learn more about how working with a psychologist and holistic health coach can help you to enhance your health and well-being, call or email Dr. Sandoval to schedule a free consultation.
- Ilardi, S. (2010). The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs.
- Wiley, TS & Formby, B. (2001). Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival.