The clocks go back this weekend (Sunday 29th October) but – while many people look forward to an extra hour’s sleep – this small change can have a big impact on your health. Here’s how you can head back into GMT feeling refreshed and ready for winter…
1. Sleep smart
The change may be a little disorientating at first as our bodies need time to synchronise with a new sleep schedule. That being said, it is only an hour and any tiredness should pass within a day or so says Dr Guy Leschziner – Consultant Neurologist at London Bridge Hospital.
‘The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person,’ he says. ‘For most of us it’s around 7-8 hours but research has shown that teenagers need an average of 9 hours per night…
‘If you’re getting enough sleep you shouldn’t need to lie in, so get up, get out and make the most of the day! If you feel like you always need a lie in on your day off then you’re probably not getting enough sleep generally.’
2. Snack right
You are what you eat, right? Some simple diet switches can help you combat winter blues in spite of the descending dark. Here, dietitian Juliette Kellow shares her top five foods to add to your shopping list after the clocks go back.
When cold-weather cravings kick-in, it’s easy to resort to sugary treats like chocolate and biscuits but opting to snack on a handful of almonds will deliver a nutrient-packed and satisfying snack to tide you over until your next meal.
Eggs contain folate and are a good source of vitamin B12, both of which are essential for healthy psychological function. Adding eggs into your winter diet also delivers a dose of vitamin D – good news as the days start to darken.
Incorporating wholegrains into our diet stabilises blood sugar levels, which in turn can help us control our appetite. Starchy foods also trigger the release of insulin, which indirectly helps tryptophan enter the brain, in turn producing mood-boosting serotonin.
Anyone suffering this winter should dose up on iron, as a lack of this mineral can cause feelings of exhaustion even when we are getting enough sleep. Not only does spinach provide iron, but it also contains folate and vitamin C – both of which reduce tiredness.
If you’re dehydrated, you can begin to feel sluggish and run down, so it’s important to keep drinking enough water throughout winter. One study found that even mild dehydration led to a lower mood, made tasks seem more difficult, and hindered concentration.
3. Get into good habits
Why wait for the new year to make resolutions? Look after number one this winter by developing healthy habits that you can stick to. Whether this is leaving work on time, having a go at meditation or simply setting aside 15 screen-free minutes each day, these small changes can have a huge impact on your wellbeing.
Dr Leschziner suggests the following: ‘Daytime light helps keep you alert. Conversely, in the evenings you should avoid bright light 2-3 hours before bed time as it stimulates your mind and tricks it into thinking that it’s still day time.
‘Try not to watch TV and avoid looking at your smart phone immediately before going to sleep… If you still can’t sleep, get out of bed, go to a different room and do something relaxing such as reading a book (but not looking at a backlit screen!) until you feel tired.’