Staying Energized and Motivated As We ‘Fall Back’

Here we go, East Coast! We are about to head into our ‘dark days’, as Daylight Saving Time ends, and we are pitched into eternal darkness at 3.30pm every day….

But, as hard as it may seem you can stay motivated, energized and light and bright at this time of year – simply by easing into the time change, setting up a consistent bedtime routine and using what are called ‘zeitgebers’, or regulators of circadian rhythm you can experience robust mental and physical health throughout the winter. Here’s how:

Stay Up Late 3 Nights Ahead

As a proponent of early bedtimes I can’t believe I’m saying this, but from tonight (Wednesday) onwards, set your bedtime back 15 minutes. Our bodies love consistency, so this is key for re-setting our body clocks to accept the time change, and won’t have you lying awake for an hour on Saturday night!

If you typically go to bed at 10pm it will look something like this:

  • Wednesday: bedtime at 10.15pm
  • Thursday: bedtime at 10.30pm
  • Friday: bedtime at 10.45pm
  • Saturday: bedtime at 11pm (which will then become 10pm)

Solidify Your Bedtime Routine

I’m such a fan of bedtime routines that I’ve had one for years (for the in-depth how to see my book ‘24 Hours to Less Stress, More Sleep), but if you don’t have a consistent routine now is the time to start one so you are in the habit by Saturday night.

Your bedtime routine literally trains your body to feel tired by the time you go bed, as we are both manipulating your circadian rhythm to start the hormonal cascade that causes sleep, and on a practical basis creating rituals that will have you nodding off before you have even turned the first page of that novel you couldn’t wait to read. Here’s how:

  • Dim the lights and use blue blocking glasses
  • Stop eating 2 hours before bedtime
  • Have a hot bath or shower before bed
  • Standardize your ‘pre-bed’ routine – wash, floss and brush in the same order every night
  • Read, journal or meditate in bed for the same amount of time every night (I literally fall asleep the second I start reading as my body knows its time to sleep – so frustrating)!

The Next Day

Get up when you naturally wake up on Sunday, and even if it’s earlier than usual don’t be tempted to go back to sleep. Chances are you are a little more well rested on a Sunday than during the week, and going back to sleep is going to make your feel tired and sluggish for the rest of the day. Waking up early will also help you make the most of the daylight hours, which we know are woefully short at this time of year.

Circadian Rhythm Regulators

To keep you feeling energized and motivated on this first day, and as the short winter days stretch out ahead of us it’s important to understand how regulators of circadian rhythm regulate our sleep/wake and energy cycles. Here’s how we can manipulate them to help us get through the dark times ahead:

  • Light: one of the key regulators of circadian rhythm, it’s vital to get as much daylight as possible during the winter months for both our mental and physical health. Workout outdoors in the morning for as long as temperatures allow, and ensure you are leaving your desk at least once a day to walk in daylight, even just for 10-15 minutes. If (like me) you really feel the effects of the short days consider a Human Charger – an iPod size device that emits blue light via earbuds to help stimulate your pineal gland (the centre of circadian rhythm control). One cycle is just 12 minutes, and at this time of year I use mine twice a day, both in the morning and when I feel that mid-afternoon slump. You can use ‘jennyh’ for a 20% discount: Human Charger. I also love to hit the infrared sauna and make use of their chromatherapy lamps – you can use code ‘jenbdysqd’ for a free session at BDYSQD in Boston.
  • Temperature: to help get you going in the morning set your heat to come on 30 minutes before you wake up, and use temperature manipulation throughout the day. A 30-60 second cold blast after your hot shower can help energize you throughout the day, and consider regular sauna sessions (as above) to up-regulate circulation and detoxification which can be sluggish throughout the winter months.
  • Movement: whilst it’s easy to want to just snuggle up on the couch on the cold dark days keeping a regular exercise routine throughout the winter months is essential for mental and physical health. If you typically workout in the morning consider moving this to a lunchtime or early afternoon session (just not late at night – a 5.30pm start is as late as I would go) to give you a boost of energy to get your through the dark afternoons and early evenings (you know, when it’s pitch black at 3.30pm and you still have another 2.5 hours at work)…
  • Social Interaction: if like me you are a Lion Chronotype and struggle with energy levels in the evening, it can be so easy to just hibernate in the winter months and eschew all evening activities. However making plans with friends can be key to both making sure you get through the long, dark afternoons and evenings, and staving off the winter blues. Make a commitment to at least one evening activity a week during these winter months, and don’t let your friends let you bail out!

For more sleep hygiene and all day energy tips you can pre-order my new ebook ‘24 Hours to Less Stress, More Sleep’ which launches in early January. Those who order before December 1st will be entered into a prize draw to win a Private Coaching Session with me (worth $295)!

Pre-order ‘24 Hours to Less Stress, More Sleep’

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