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Spring Forward Without Losing Sleep

March 12, 2023 – Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins, and Americans SPRING FORWARD! Well, most of them will. Did you know that some states and American territories have opted out of DST? But, we are much more aligned today than we were before the passage of the Uniform Time Act in 1966 when the states were unregulated on when or whether they used DST. Before 1966, states, and even counties would change to DST on various days in the spring. Interestingly, there has been recent legislative efforts to adopt a permanent DST, meaning no more time changes.

Spring forward means that we lose an hour of sleep. So, how does losing an hour of sleep affect you? If you’re already a bit sleep-deprived (over 20% of American adults are), losing an hour can impact how you feel and act for days. Your circadian rhythm (internal clock) can also be affected if you are used to waking up in the sunlight, and now it’s still dark when you hop out of bed. Unfortunately, it can take a couple of days for your body to adjust to the new time zone. For some folks, this experience is similar to the sluggish feeling of jet lag. So, set yourself up well to deal with this one-hour loss.

There are lots of reasons to ensure that you regularly get a good night’s sleep. Sleepy adolescents have significantly lower academic performance, increased school tardiness, and lower graduation rates than other students. For adults, daytime sleepiness has been linked to poor health on several measurements. It has even been associated with compromised professional performance, including physicians and judges. And it can be deadly. AAA reports that sleep problems contribute to more than 100,000 motor vehicle incidents and 1,500 deaths annually.

On top of these sobering statistics, epidemiological data show that sleep deprivation is linked to obesity worldwide. Three obesity-inducing phenomena happen when you’re sleep-deprived: You experience hunger more than you otherwise would, you consume more calories, and you make poor food choices.

Scientists are slowly unraveling the biochemistry behind these responses to sleep deprivation. Brain researchers have learned that when you are tired, your brain’s ability to evaluate your appetite significantly decreases – you feel hungry, even if you’re not. You may choose foods higher in sugars to gain quick-fix energy.

Not only does your brain let you down when you’re sleep-deprived, but your physiology does, too. When you get fewer than seven hours of sleep, your hormones go out of whack. Ghrelin (the “hunger hormone” which stimulates appetite and fat storage) increases, while leptin (the hormone released by the stomach that tells your brain “I’m full”) decreases! Missing a few hours of sleep on a given night leads people to eat an average of an additional 559 calories the next day. Wow!

Now that we’ve examined a bit of the science behind why sleep is so important to good nutrition, what are some steps you can take so that “springing forward” does not knock you off your perfect night’s sleep and ruin your next day’s food choices?

6 Tips For Better Sleep

  1. Go to bed a little earlier: Gradually adjust your bedtime a few days before DTS by about 15-20 minutes. This will make the change less abrupt for your sleep rhythms.
  2. 7 Hours is key: Make sure you are getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, even on the weekends.
  3. Consistency is helpful: Keep to a “ready for bed” routine.
  4. Turn off electronics: Studies show use of electronics just prior to bedtime can effect the quality of your rest.
  5. Fresh air and sunshine: During the day, go outside for a burst of energy. Sunshine helps suppress the production of  melatonin (a hormone that makes you feel tired) during the day, until it is time to sleep.
  6. Eat for good sleep: Maintaining a healthy balanced diet will help your sleep. Reduce caffeine and alcohol as they will affect the quality of your sleep.

And, not surprisingly, the foods you choose to eat also affect sleep quality. The brain produces and uses melatonin. Melatonin, an important sleep hormone, and the amount of melatonin you create and how efficiently your brain uses it are both affected by diet. One of the most significant influences on melatonin levels appears to be your intake of tryptophan. B vitamins and magnesium help increase tryptophan’s bioavailability, so it’s important to get enough of those nutrients as well. And calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin.

Your All-Day Diet for a Good Night’s Sleep

The blue boxes indicate the known vitamins, minerals, and hormones present in the foods that help aid sleep.
– Angela Jansen, Vice President, Analytics and Population Health

Check out these recipes loaded with all the right vitamins and nutrients to make sure your body gets a good night’s sleep:

Find more DinnerTime recipes for dishes that contain sleep-inducing properties.

Search in your DinnerTime Recipe Box by the foods in the chart above.

The dairy in this easy “make-ahead” dish is sure to help you sleep.

Make these quick and yummy grilling packets for an extra boost of Vitamin B-3.

Who knew fish as tasty as this is also loaded with Vitamin B-6, magnesium and tryptophan?