Spring Forward to a Better Sleep Cycle
By Jessica Wilhelm, CN
Spring is right around the corner which means we will be getting more hours of sunlight and warmer days, but it is also a time that many of us don’t look forward to, because it means we will soon be losing an hour of sleep. With the upcoming spring forward upon us, taking a proactive approach to the one-hour loss just might be the key. The body needs time to adjust to any new routine which is why with some preparation you can ease your way through this time transition.
You can start gradually preparing for the time change several days in advance by moving your bedtime up by 10-15 minutes each night. That way by the time we have sprung forward, your body has had time to slowly adjust to getting to bed earlier. You can also do the same for waking in the morning by setting your alarm 10-15 minutes earlier each day. If you exercise in the evening, try to get in your workout at least 3 hours before your normal bedtime. Exercise increases the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, norepinephrine and dopamine that have a stimulating effect in the body and brain. Giving your body ample time to recover from recent exercise allows our calming neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA to balance the recent release of stimulating neurotransmitters to prepare you for sleep. But what if you have trouble falling and staying asleep regardless of the time change?
The body is naturally inclined to rise with the sun and rest when it becomes dark. With the increase exposure to technology, having resources available 24 hours a day and excess stimulation (distractions, environments, diets, activities) it can be hard to fall asleep with ease and stay asleep through the night. If you are not getting the proper amount of rest each night the adrenals, our stress response organs, do not properly rejuvenate which can result in fatigue and brain fog the next day.
Consistently experiencing issues with falling and staying asleep through the night could be an indicator of a neurotransmitter imbalance. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that allow for proper communication between the nervous system and the rest of the body. Serotonin and GABA are our primary inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitters produced in the body that play a large role in mood regulation and a healthy sleep cycle. When the levels of these neurotransmitters become depleted or are inefficient it is common to experience sleep cycle disturbances. Depleted GABA levels, in particular are associated with the decreased ability to get into a deep sleep which can result in restlessness and waking in the middle of the night. Here are a few tips that can promote a better night’s sleep.
Establish a regular sleep routine. Mindfulness meditation or yoga before bed can promote relaxation. Avoid eating large meals 2 hours before bedtime. Avoid drinking too many fluids close to bedtime as this can result in unnecessary trips to the bathroom; disrupting sleep cycle. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and chocolate after 12 pm. Avoid electronics that emit blue-light at least 1 hour before bed (TV, cellphones, tablets, video games). Adults should aim to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. School-aged children need approximately 10-11 hours of sleep each night.
If you are interested in learning more about the potential cause of your sleep issues, consider checking your neurotransmitters levels with Wellnicity’s My Brain Balance OR My Sleep & Mood test kits. Using your test results, clinicians create a personalized, wellness plan to balance the whole brain to alleviate sleep cycle issues.