Tips to Avoid “Falling Backward” with Time Change

It’s that time of year again – and while many of us welcome an extra hour of sleep on Sunday, the consequences of losing an hour of daylight at the end of the day can wreak havoc with some people’s physical and mental health.

Check out these tips for adjusting to the fall time change:

Find 20 minutes of sunshine to add to your daily schedule. Bundle up and use your breaks or lunch hour to take a walk outdoors to soak up available sunshine. If you are an early riser, head out before your day begins to take advantage of the sunrise.

“One of the toughest things about falling back is heading home in darkness after leaving work or after-school activities at a normal time,” said Amber Olson, LCSW, regional director for Memorial Behavioral Health Clinical Operations. “We also tend to spend more time indoors when the days are shorter and the weather turns cold, which further limits our exposure to sunlight.”

As little as 20 minutes of sunlight a day can provide your body with the necessary serotonin to help regulate your mood. Use weekends or days off to catch up on outdoor chores or add fun activities like hiking, sledding or even building a snowman if the weather cooperates.

Pay attention to your eating habits. Another challenge in falling back is the change to our normal eating schedules. Eating meals an hour earlier each day can be problematic when your body doesn’t “feel” hungry yet. There can also be a tendency to eat more later at night.

“Try to stick with your normal eating pattern during this transition,” said Shae Mowry, MS, RDN, LDN, with Memorial Wellness Center. “If you experience hunger pangs, answer by pairing fiber with protein at mealtime and snacks. Although comfort foods like refined carbohydrates or higher-fat foods like sweets or chips can sometimes sneak their way into your day, they won’t fuel your body.”

Consider these foods packed with fiber and protein:

  • Pair an apple with low-fat cheese slices or natural peanut butter for a nutritious snack.
  • Whole eggs are a great addition to any meal. Pair with your favorite veggies.
  • Add a fish-based meal to your weekly dinner rotation.
  • Don’t forget nuts, low-fat cottage cheese, chicken breast and light yogurt for protein-heavy choices.
  • Stick to about a quarter of your plate for starchy foods and avoid larger servings of pasta or other carb-heavy entrees later in the day.

Sleep is crucial. A few days early, start to adjust your sleep schedule to the time change in increments of 15 or 20 minutes to acclimate your body to falling back an hour. Short 20- to 30-minute naps can help, but avoid the temptation of sleeping for hours in the middle of the day, which can throw off your body’s rhythm.

Finally, remember – time change or not, keep a regular sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Create a restful environment before bedtime. Turn off the cellphone or television at least an hour before going to sleep. Avoid big meals or alcohol later at night. Allow your body to transition into the new routine.

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