For most of us, waking up the first Monday morning after daylight savings starts is such a struggle. That one missed hour of sleep seems so important when sleep is already a rare commodity. It can often feel as though it takes a week or two before our body clocks get used to the darker mornings and lighter evenings, so any ideas to speed up that process are most welcome.
Long Sleep Onset Latency (SOL)
Put simply, some of us suffer from an inability to fall asleep (SOL). We lie in bed waiting for sleep to take hold and it can take hours. When the clocks move forward one hour, this becomes an even worse problem as we begin to fear the loss of a further hour in the morning.
This issue of falling asleep has been looked at by researcher Allison Harvey and her team at Oxford University. They found that people with insomnia tend to produce negative mental images in their heads when trying to fall asleep and they are more aware of the sounds of their surroundings.
Improving sleep through relaxation
The obvious answer should be to simply relax before going to sleep and to think pleasant thoughts. However, the research shows that telling yourself to think good things is not effective because intrusive thoughts always seem to find a way in. In fact, those who tried to stop thinking about negative things found that they actually experienced more of them.
The study looked at insomniacs who were asked for the first 3 nights (in controlled environments) to estimate how long they thought they took to fall asleep. For the subsequent two nights the participants were asked to perform maths tests via an audiotape just as they fell asleep. Those who were poor sleepers actually fell asleep more quickly. This test and another where insomniacs were asked to think about giving a speech the next day showed that distraction was positive for their condition.
Ways to fall asleep more quickly
With daylight savings adding to your sleeplessness worries, it makes sense to ease yourself into it. Perhaps adjust your going to bed and waking times by just 15 minutes every few days (if practical) until you are back in sync. Creating an environment in your bedroom that is not influenced by the level of light outside may also be useful – blackout blinds can be perfect for this.
Remember these following pointers on relaxation as well.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine
- Try not to worry about thinking negative thoughts
- Distract yourself from negative thoughts by thinking about pleasant ones.