I'm always thrilled about the extra hour's kip we get when we shift from BST to GMT.
But this particular time travel expedition is a sneaky one. After all, we don't think of it in the way we think of jetlag after a long haul flight (remember those?) Shifting a mere 60 minutes seems like a drop in the ocean but can wreak havoc on the quality of your sleep whilst you get adjusted.
With the aim of giving ourselves the best chance of soothing the nervous system and maintaining some vibrancy in the darker months, here are a few pointers:
They're best practiced on the regular (a little often is miles better than a lot just once), and as ever, take what you need and leave what you don't.
1. Let your eyeballs soak up the light.
There's less of it as we move into November, so consciously carve out time in the morning for a natural light hit. It'll do wonders for settling your circadian rhythm.
2. Move your body
In any way that feels good - walk, climb, jump, cycle, skip, try kapalabhati breathing.
It's all channelling agni (the Sanskrit word for fire) which we need much more of as the air outside becomes cooler.
Motivation will waver, so make it something you do first thing (I've found a minute of shaking off sleep - since every morning can't be a "slow morning" - is pretty achievable)
3. Discover sustainable ways to manage fatigue
As someone who doesn't respond well to "avoid eating or drinking that", I'm not an advocate of cutting out things that bring you some form of pleasure and aren't doing lots of harm. The promise of a mug of black coffee is literally the main reason I get out of bed when it's dark outside, and lining up a run or HIIT class for afterwards means I can burn through the anxious caffeine buzz. When there's only two minutes to spare, I pop on an uplifting song and dance about the kitchen.
We can approach booze in a similar way... our heart rate rockets when we consume alcohol which can result in lighter sleep (and we kickstart the need for a caffeine fix the morning after). But in the year of lockdowns, if a glass of something at the end of the day is what you most look forward to, gift yourself it. Leave ample time to digest and take a moment to calm your system before bed with some gentle stretches and deep breaths, so there's this conscious switching of gears from party to chill.
I've recorded a Bedtime Rituals practice if you need inspiration.
4. Become an advanced napper (my favourite job title thus far)
Top up your vital energy by taking a short and sweet break in the middle of the day. It might be the "mini death" of savasana (corpse pose), an actual nap, or the "awake sleep" which is yoga nidra. The latter is said to be 4x more restorative than sleep, so it's worth trying...
Here's my remedy to the post-lunch energy slump
- Cover those eyes (here are sustainably made eye pillows which you can heat up in the microwave - a godsend for the tension headache crowd).
- Lie on your back, supporting underneath the knees and head. If you've been on your feet all day, bring the backs of your legs to a wall and let them lean in.
- Get cosy. A blanket is almost aways a winner.
- Enjoy listening to silence, an ultra-calming playlist (here's one) or go on a guided journey of relaxation
- Stay for a while. 20 minutes is the ideal amount, but if it's 2 minutes that's better than no minutes.
5. Dim the lights an hour before bedtime
The best habit I've formed this year has been leaving my screens outside the bedroom arena post-9pm (totally fell off the wagon the night I downloaded Words With Friends, and it was fully worth it).
Minimising light - particularly of the blue variety - will not only induce sleepiness but there's something quite wonderful about not checking your phone (and the various things it's notifying you of) within seconds of waking. Tech boundaries and all that.
6. Lastly, don't get obsessed with sleep
I know, I know, that sounds ridiculous considering the content of this post. But sleep can be an elusive beast, and the more we do the whole "there's only 4 hours until my alarm goes off" followed swiftly by "there's only 3 hours until my alarm goes off", the more we move away from being inside our own bodies as they are in that moment.
Acknowledging the racing thoughts, the foot cramp and the restlessness can be liberating. From a place of resistance we tend to get nowhere. Acceptance, on the other hand, means we're free to redirect our efforts into pulling out every bit of gold from the yoga treasure box that might pacify us.
One final thing: know that in spite of all the messages you've absorbed about "life hacks" sometimes it's simply out of your control. The personal responsibility - pressure, even - of constantly improving sleep hygiene, health and wellbeing doesn't take into account the noisy neighbours, major global events, looming work deadlines and family members who need you at 2am. This is all a part of our experience as humans, and to be alive is to be connected with that reality.
IMAGES: from the megatrip, 2017. Taken at sunrise at the magical Uluru. Copyright scyoga.