Tips To Make It Easier To Spring Forward

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It may only be a single hour of lost time, but “springing forward” for Daylight Saving Time can pack a punch for some people. Many experience sleepiness, mood changes and sleep disturbances as they attempt to adjust to the time change.

“The time change can affect people in a variety of ways; for some individuals there are minimal effects and for others they are much more long lasting,” explains University of Michigan sleep specialist J. Todd Arnedt, Ph.D. But the negative effects of a lost hour of sleep can be prevented if people make a few simple changes, he says.

The most obvious consequence of the change our bodies are used to getting a certain number of hours of sleep, and losing an hour can have significant consequences the next day says Arnedt, University of Michigan sleep specialist and Assistant Professor and Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program.

In addition to sleepiness and mood changes, such as irritability, people often have more difficulty performing at work and are at greater risk for accidents while driving. Studies have shown, for example, that there is an increase in the number of car crashes on the Monday following the time change relative to the Monday before. New research has also linked a higher rate of heart attacks to Daylight Saving Time, which may be related to the associated sleep deprivation.

Children naturally need more sleep than adults and may actually be more sensitive to the effects of sleep deprivation, says Arnedt. Adults experience sleepy behaviors the day following a bad night’s sleep and are left feeling slowed down and tired. Children, on the other hand, may experience more inattention and hyperactivity the following day.

The effects of sleep loss can have significant impact on children’s ability to function at school, and can also impact family-functioning at home. Arnedt suggests adopting a new schedule and routine after the time change can help children to adjust.

There are a variety of things that people can do to minimize the effects of the lost hour of sleep. One can consider taking a nap during the day preceding the time change, but it’s important that the nap is brief and not too close to bedtime. Getting some extra sleep for a few days before and after the time change, particularly if you are already a good sleeper, can be beneficial. People also can gradually adjust their sleep and wake schedules, going to bed and getting up 15-20 minutes earlier, for the 4-5 days preceding the time change so that their bodies are adjusted to the new time once it is adopted. During these adjustments, getting bright light on awakening and restricting exposure to light in the evening is important. In some cases, a short trial of pill form melatonin may be used around the time change to help adjust the internal clock. People should discuss with their doctors if this might be appropriate for them.

Beyond Daylight Saving Time, obtaining enough hours of sleep on a regular basis is essential to good health and overall functioning, Arnedt notes. Keeping regular bedtimes during the week and weekends can help keep the internal biological clock

well regulated and healthy. Daytime napping should be limited, as should evening consumption of substances that can interfere with sleep, such as caffeine and alcohol. People should also be aware of their bedroom environment, Arnedt notes. He suggests having a cool temperature, comfortable bed, minimal noise and a dark bedroom.

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Exercise in the late afternoon can have a direct benefit to sleep. And it’s important to have a wind-down routine for the last 45 minutes to an hour before bed each night. This can include having a light snack, reading or watching television, and dimming the lights in preparation for bed. All of these suggestions help signal the body that sleep is about to come, Arnedt says.

The U-M team offers these quick tips that everyone should follow to get a good night’s sleep every night:

* Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on the weekends

* Avoid daytime naps or limit them to one brief (15-30 minutes) mid-afternoon nap

* Avoid drinking alcohol in the evening and do not use it to help you sleep

* Avoid caffeinated products (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate) after mid-afternoon

* Eliminate tobacco use, especially close to bedtime and during the night

* Exercise regularly during the day, but avoid evening exercise

* Avoid using the bedroom for school work, business affairs, TV-watching or exercise

* Keep the bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable

* Set aside about 45 min­utes or more to wind down at the end of the day before going to bed.

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