Ask the Expert: U.S. Army Neuroscientist Shares Best Practices for Improving Sleep During Daylight Saving Time
Almost time to “Fall Back” instead of Spring Ahead leaving us a bit tired of the change in timing and leading to trouble falling asleep. But for the millions who have trouble sleeping. Now new ideas from an unlikely expert may help.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the yearly practice of adjusting the time to save natural light. While it may not seem like too drastic a change, sleep experts have noted it can cause sleep problems for some people.
About 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Without sleep, the body and brain have no means to repair and recover. Sleep is one of the five domains of the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) system, alongside mental readiness, physical readiness, spiritual readiness, and nutritional readiness.
Restorative sleep is needed to improve your physical performance and cognitive functions, aid in digestion, stabilize your mood, and more. Army research shows that adequate sleep maintains pathways of vigilance, attention, emotional stability, and threat detection—necessary for the health of both Soldiers and civilians alike. Army Neuroscientist and H2F Sleep Expert, Major Allison Brager, has found ways of improving performance after a bad night’s sleep, which include:
- Going into a dark, cool, and quiet room helps to prevent sleep fragmentation and optimize time spent in restorative sleep.
- Powering down phones and dimming lights helps prepare our bodies and brain for bed by optimizing the release of melatonin–the hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Avoiding coffee at least 6-8 hours before bed, since coffee’s rate of clearance from the body can be as much as 8 hours.
On the days where Soldiers and civilians alike face a bad night of sleep, there are a few things Maj. Brager recommends:
- Downloading the Army-branded and developed strategic caffeine dosing app, PeakAlert, which uses artificial intelligence and each person’s own data to enhance alertness, safety, and performance.
- Absorbing as much sunlight early in the morning as possible by stopping activity every 25 minutes to get 5 minutes of sunlight.
- Taking a 10-minute tactical nap or a 20-minute walk or jog to promote wakefulness and increase blood flow.
Major Allison Brager, a U.S. Army Neuroscientist and sleep expert, joined me to discuss ways H2F aims to improve Soldier performance in the Army while sharing expert tips that everyday civilians can follow to sleep – and perform – like Soldiers do.
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Major Allison Brager
Major Allison Brager is a neuroscientist involved in the U.S. Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness System, or H2F, which aims to improve the performance, health and wellness, and readiness of our Soldiers. The system takes an integrated health approach that focuses on both physical and non-physical domains, one of which is sleep readiness.
As a leader of the Sleep Readiness domain, Major Brager helps develop and implement the sleep practices that help Soldiers improve performance and reach their full potential. Major Brager also studies survival under extreme conditions, such as sleep deprivation and stress, and what makes people more resilient.
She oversaw clinical testing and field support as part of the Army’s COVID-19 response at the Javits Center in New York, where she led research and development around the physiological health of the team. She has also served on the Army Warrior Fitness Team, competing alongside elite athletes.
Major Brager has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a PhD in Biological Science. She grew up in Youngstown, Ohio.