How have you been sleeping this week? Finding yourself fading a little earlier in the evening? Waking up while it's still dark outside? Walking around tired and cranky all day? It sounds like you've been sapped by daylight saving.
It might sound like nothing; winding the clocks back just a single hour. But you might be surprised at just how big an effect it can have on the quality of your sleep.
Your body is the ultimate creature of habit, and for the past six months you've been training it to go to sleep at a particular time, and then to wake up again at another. And then, suddenly, we throw that carefully crafted schedule into chaos without warning.
Because you can forget what it says on your phone or your watch, our bodies have their own internal clocks.
And because it pays no notice of daylight saving, it will still produce hormones such as melatonin and cortisol, that regulate when you sleep and when you wake up, at the same times, and that process doesn't change just because we've wound the clocks back.
The most common symptoms are tiredness, of course, as well as an impact on your general mood. But there can be more serious impacts, too. A study from The New England Journal of Medicine found your risk of a heart attack or stroke was higher in the two weeks after a daylight saving switch than it was in the two weeks before it.
The good news is all of these impacts only last about two weeks after we change the clocks — so you're halfway there. But happily, you can also shorten the impacts of daylight saving by improving the overall quality of your sleep. And the good news is that the positive effects stay with you all year. And in more ways than you might think.
In 2012, a study found that people who got between six and eight hours of regular sleep were twice as likely to succeed with their weight-loss goals than those who weren't getting enough kip. And American studies have also shown that getting quality sleep makes you less likely to develop health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.
What's more, you'll simply feel better. So if you're not getting enough sleep, it's time to make some changes.
Here's how you hack the best night's sleep you've ever had.
SAY GOODNIGHT TO THE BLUE LIGHT
Artificial light has the biggest single impact on the quality of your sleep. Our bodies have evolved to rise and set with the sun, and so suddenly shining a bright blue light — the kind computers, phones and TVs emit — into your eyes before bed sparks a biological reaction that tells your body it's time to get up. So ban the phone from the bedroom, and invest a couple of dollars in a cheap, old-fashioned alarm clock. Your body will thank you for it.
TAKE A BATH
Your body temperature naturally varies according to your circadian rhythm, dropping by up to a degree when it's time for bed. So having a warm bath about an hour before hitting the sack will artificially raise your body temperature, only for it to fall again when you get out, sending that important signal that it's time for bed. Adding a couple of drops of lavender oil to the bath is a handy hack, too, with research from the European Sleep Research Society finding that it helps you relax, de-stress and prepare for sleep.
PENCIL IT IN
Many of us struggle to stop our brains from racing once our heads hit the pillow. But research published in Behavioural Sleep Medicine found simply grabbing a pencil and writing down anything on your mind before bed, along with a possible solution, will see you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. This simple hack works because it reduced stress, and puts those problems into perspective.
CREATE A SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Creating the perfect sleep environment is critical to getting a good night's sleep. That means no TV in the bedroom, of course, but also means you need to make your sleep zone a tidy and relaxing area that encourages sleep. Start turning down the house lights and drawing the curtains in the hours before bed, and swap the TV remote for a book, and you'll be asleep in no time.
MAKE THEM COUNT
There will always be times when you simply can't get a full night's sleep, be it because of a late meeting or an early flight, and so that means you need to make the sleep you do count. So here's a shortcut for you: research has found that if you get to bed before 10pm every night then every hour you're asleep before 1am is the equivalent to two hours. And that sounds like a solid deal to us.
Adam, what are your thoughts on the idea of a nightcap? Is it true a drink before bed will help you sleep?
Alcohol is the ultimate double-edged sword when it comes to sleep quality. While it's true alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it is also responsible for producing a lower-quality sleep, as your body is working overtime to process those toxins. You're much better to get into a natural sleep routine, which will produce a much better quality of sleep.
Adam MacDougall is a former NRL player and the creator of The Man Shake. Continue the conversation @adammacdougall5. This article was first published on news.com.au.