Coming Soon (11/4/18): Jet Lag Without the Travel
Spring forward, fall back—even though the clocks change by only an hour during Daylight Savings Time, the effects can set you back. In fact, it feels like a mild case of jet lag. Because body chemistry speaking, it is. Your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythms) is in sync with the time the sun rises and sets, directly impacting how much sleep-inducing melatonin is released and when. This in turn impacts the brain regions that are involved in stimulating alertness and energy. Boom: Daylight Savings Time!
The changes that come with Daylight Savings Time can temporarily make mornings and evenings a bit more challenging. If you have the foresight to plan ahead (hint: start tonight!) it helps to prepare for losing sleep by going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier than usual each night in the days leading up to the time change -- because studies show that "fall back" or "spring forward," we all lose sleep as our bodies adjust to the change.
Some people swear by using melatonin when it comes to regulating sleep before, after or during travel -- and Daylight Savings Time might also be a time to employ some melatonin to synchronize those circadian rhythms.
What is melatonin?
Well, as it turns out, melatonin is a hormone that our brains naturally produce related to sleep. It is involved with our circadian rhythms and helps our body anticipate the onset of darkness each day. At nighttime, our bodies start secreting a little more melatonin from our pineal gland in order to get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin can help you sleep when you are transitioning between time zones by telling the brain to sleep at a different time than normal.
Melatonin can be purchased over the counter at drugstores, Whole Foods and most places that have supplements, herbal and homeopathic remedies.
How do I use it for travel?
Travelers flying East use Melatonin as a jet lag management strategy. If this is your desired use, experts say that you could take a dose of .5 to 5 mg 30 minutes to 2 hours before your desired sleep time. It should help you rest on the flight and help your body adjust to the new time when you arrive. OneMedical, Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health all have articles to guide you.
Can I use it for Daylight Savings Time?
If you want to give it a try to support your circadian rhythms in “falling back” this Sunday, you can use it in much the same way as you would with travel. Research shows that increased levels of melatonin in the body do improve sleep duration and quality, both which are compromised during time changes. To give this a try, target your desired bedtime the night before the time change (Saturday) and take it 30 minutes to 2 hours before that time. It will naturally signal your body to prepare for sleep and it might just smooth out that time change transition.
The Bottom Line:
Contrary to popular belief, “Falling Back” does not actually give you an extra hour of sleep but it does mess with your circadian rhythms. If you want to minimize the effects this disruption has on your body, some advance planning and good sleep hygiene can go a long way. (Good sleep hygiene = Sleep in a dark, cool room, stay off anything with a screen for one hour before bedtime, get good morning exercise, minimize caffeine and alcohol, follow a bedtime routine.) Throw melatonin into the mix and you may not even feel the effects of the time change this Sunday.
Melatonin or not, within a few days of “falling back," you should adjust to the new time schedule naturally as your circadian rhythm catches up to your new reality. Speaking of reality, Californians, did you see that there is a ballot measure to discontinue Daylight Savings Time? Read about Proposition 7 here. Oh, and on that note, get out and VOTE on Tuesday!