Daylight time: How to get enough sleep when the clocks spring forward
A woman is seen sleeping in this stock image.
TORONTO -- While turning the clocks forward in the spring means brighter evenings and warmer days ahead, it also means most Canadians will be operating on one less hour of sleep.
On Sunday, most of Canada will observe daylight time and spring forward an hour in order to reflect the increasing sunlight.
While one hour may not seem like much, past studies have shown there are increases in motor vehicle crashes and heart attacks in the week after the time change in the spring.
Alanna McGinn, a sleep expert and president of Good Night Sleep Site, said the effects of the seasonal time change are even more pronounced because the majority of Canadians are already sleep deprived.
According to the latest ParticipACTION Report Cards on Physical Activity, Canadian adults between the ages of 18 and 79 are not meeting their sleep duration recommendations, with an average of 7.2 hours of sleep per night.
School-aged children and youth didn’t fare much better in the report, with a quarter of participants not getting the suggested amount of sleep.
McGinn, who partnered with ParticipAction to educate Canadians on how physical activity can aid sleep, said poor sleeping habits can result in both short-term and long-term health effects, including an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
For anyone concerned about losing sleep when the clocks turn ahead this weekend, McGinn shared her top tips for getting enough quality rest.
McGinn said Canadians can ensure they will be able to fall asleep faster and get quality sleep by making exercise a daily part of their routine. She said everyone should try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day.
“You’re looking at about 150 minutes per week,” she told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview on Thursday. “I always say get the family involved. Go out for family hikes and bike rides and walks.”
Fitness trackers and apps can also help people stay motivated and stay accountable, McGinn said.
“Having that physical activity helps kind of build that drive to sleep,” she said. “If you’re a walker, go out for that power walk. If you’re a runner, go out for that run, family swimming, hikes, anything that’s just going to keep you active.”
As for when to exercise, McGinn recommends morning to early afternoon. She said it’s best to stay away from really vigorous physical activity before bed because that can increase adrenaline and cortisol levels, making it more difficult to wind down.
Establish a bedtime routine
McGinn said it’s important to establish a consistent bed routine involving going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. She said people can try other activities that will help them prepare for sleep, such as yoga, stretching, reading, colouring, tai chi, and meditation.
“As you head closer to bedtime, you want to start working on more calming exercise routines, rather than really heart pumping ones,” she said. “[Activities] that will not only help lower heartrate, but help calm the mind, calm the body, which can also help you fall asleep much faster.”
Stress can also play a big role in preventing people from falling asleep or disrupting the quality of their sleep, McGinn said. To help de-stress before bed, she said people should try to prepare everything they need for the next day, the night before.
“If you know you have a busy day ahead, prepare at night. If that means making sure your presentation is loaded, ready to go, it’s fully complete. You’ve got your notes all done, you’ve packed your lunch, you’ve packed for your kids’ lunch,” she said. “So you can go to bed with a free mind knowing that your checklist is complete.”
Create a ‘sleep sanctuary’
Finally, McGinn said Canadians should think about creating an environment in their bedroom that is conducive to sleep.
In order to do this, she said the first thing they should do is remove all technology, such as cellphones, tablets, remote controls, from their bedside tables.
“That’s probably the number one biggest sleep buster and why we are such a sleep-deprived society because tech is finding its way more and more into our bedrooms,” she said.
As the sunlight stretches later into the evenings, McGinn said it might be a good idea to invest in blackout blinds to keep the bedroom dark for sleeping. She also said other products, such as white noise machines, aromatic scents, and toddler alarm clocks, which provide visual cues to let them know when to fall asleep and wake up, can also help.
“[You should be] really focusing on creating that nice sleep sanctuary that you’re going to sleep in,” she said.