HOUSTON – Between the pandemic, election tension and the recent time change, who isn’t feeling exhausted? Many are struggling to fight fatigue during the afternoon, especially with the shorter winter days courtesy of the recent Daylight Savings Time adjustment. Menninger Director of Sleep Medicine Chester Wu, M.D. shares how the time change affects our sleep patterns, and what we can do to adjust.
According to Dr. Wu, sleep is grounded by circadian rhythm, a biological clock that is influenced by the environment around us. Factors such as sunlight, physical activity, work and mealtimes give cues to our bodies about when to sleep and wake. Even the small change of one hour can throw our circadian rhythm off balance.
Additionally, stress has a major impact on healthy sleeping habits. The ongoing pandemic and news coverage regarding the 2020 election have many people on edge, and even those who are normally sound sleepers are struggling due to current events.
Luckily, Dr. Wu has some helpful ways for us to improve our sleep quality.
WAYS TO IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY
- Develop a wind-down routine: These should be things you do daily leading up to bedtime that will signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. This should involve relaxing, low-stimulating activities such as reading a book or meditation using dim lighting.
- Avoid meals and heavy exercise: Try to avoid these at least two hours before bedtime, as they will activate your body, making it difficult to fall asleep.
- Give yourself 10 minutes to sleep: If you can’t fall asleep after 10 minutes, get up and do something relaxing or monotonous.
- Be consistent: Humans are creatures of habit. Maintaining a regular bedtime and wake time everyday will provide the foundation for a good night’s rest.
If the afternoon slump is still proving to be a difficult hurdle for you to get through, don’t fret. According to Dr. Wu, this is a natural occurrence for our bodies’ circadian rhythm. Here are some tips to help perk you up after lunch time.
TIPS TO FIGHT THE AFTERNOON SLUMP
- Take a catnap: If you have the ability to take a short nap, do it! Keep it brief though, 20 minutes will do. In many companies and cultures, it is acceptable to have nap hours at this time of day to help boost productivity.
- Get moving: Try doing some light physical activity, like going for a short walk.
- Light exposure: Brighten up your outlook by soaking up some sun. Light therapy lamps can be a great alternative if you can’t get outside before sunset.
- Social engagement: Many gain energy by interacting with other people, so try chatting with a coworker or calling a friend. Note, this does not include scrolling through social media.
Though poor sleep habits have become pretty commonplace, they can lead to serious health issues if prolonged. Lack of sleep reduces the brain’s ability to make sound decisions and manage emotions, which can have a major impact on your daily tasks and interactions. If you continue to struggle with insomnia, fatigue or other sleep disorders, seek professional help. Professionals can diagnose a wide variety of sleep disorders via sleep lab studies.
For the full interview, watch the video below. To connect with Dr. Wu, visit The Menninger Clinic website.