The Bright Side Blog

FALLing to Sleep

FALLing to Sleep

The autumn equinox on September 22nd announces a time of change. Students have returned to class even if many of them are attending  online school. And the scent of pumpkin spice calls our name (mmmmmm, pumpkin spice!).

The autumn equinox is something we learn in school and then forget. But it’s one of two days in the year when day and night are of equal length. And it can impact your sleep.

Circadian Rhythms 

All life follows circadian rhythms. Scientists credit one component for a healthy body and mind as a result of the harmonization of behavioral, physiologic, and metabolic circadian rhythms. The amount of sunlight versus darkness we encounter directly impacts our circadian rhythms and how well we sleep.

Depending on where you live, you may experience an impact on your sleep patterns because of the autumn equinox. The arrival of fall means daylight lessens and nights are longer, impacting our internal clocks.

One 2011 study on sleep patterns in Ghana and Norway found that Norwegians went to bed and woke up earlier in the summer. In winter, they reported more sleeplessness, exhaustion, and melancholy. However, participants in Ghana, with its proximity to the equator and resulting lack of seasonal shift, did not report similar physical changes.

Tips for Better Sleep

More than 15 million U.S. workers are considered shift workers, including nurses, truckers, and police who work evening, night, or rotating shifts outside the normal 9-5 routine. Studies have found this group has a higher risk of insomnia, heart disease, and depression. But there are five ways you can avoid being impacted by the equinox:

  1. Create a schedule and stick to it. It’s a myth that you can “catch up” on missed sleep. A 2010 study found the benefit of the extra sleep did not last through the next day. Participants’ reaction times and ability to focus were poorer than if they had pulled an all-nighter. 
  2. Spend some time in the sun (don’t forget your SPF), especially early morning light, to keep your internal clock on target. 
  3. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially if you know either contributes to a poor night’s sleep.
  4. Take 10 minutes to get your body moving. This is the perfect time to try Coach Donna’s 10-minute yoga sessions or another short MYX session to get your heart rate up.
  5. Try a brief power nap if your circumstances permit. But choose the right time of day, and keep it short.

The autumn equinox heralds a transition. So raise your pumpkin spice latte, take time to notice changes in the natural world, and celebrate this day of balance.

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