Health Break

Health Break: Sleep preparation will foil daylight saving time’s unrest

March 3, 2014 

Daylight saving time will begin at 2 a.m. Sunday. While it may seem silly for some to grumble about losing an hour of sleep, there is credit in the claim that daylight saving time can affect one’s body.

We all run on a natural biological clock that controls our circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24- to 25-hour cycle and respond to light and darkness in our environment. Changing the clock by an hour throws off our biological clock and our circadian rhythm, affecting our body temperature, mental alertness, hormone levels, gastrointestinal function and sleeping habits.

The time change can be compared to driving west or east to a different time zone. Your body gets thrown off when you are behind or ahead of your body’s “normal time.”

Luckily, because our bodies’ natural clocks operate on a schedule that’s slightly longer than 24 hours, it’s much easier for us to adjust to an extra hour rather than shortening our day. However, the beginning of daylight saving still can be hard for some people, especially those who are already sleep deprived because they’ll technically be losing another hour of sleep.

Most experts believe it typically takes about one day to adjust per hour change; however, some people take longer for their bodies to regulate.

To more easily adjust to the change, make small changes to your sleep schedule leading up to Sunday. Starting four days before, try to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night leading up to the time change, allowing your body to gradually adjust. By Sunday, you will be going to bed an hour earlier than you’re used to, but it will be the same time as your “typical” bedtime. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to do this, wake up and go to bed at your regular time Sunday; don’t try sleeping an extra hour to compensate for the time lost.

Also make sure you are sleeping in a dark area. If your window lets light shine in, hang additional curtains or fabric. With the time change, the evening light stays with us an hour later, which can disturb those who need to go to bed early.

If you still have consistent trouble sleeping, you should speak with your physician to see if it’s recommended you see a sleep specialist. The Mount Nittany Health sleep management program can help find the cause of and determine appropriate treatment for sleep disorders that impact daily life. Common sleep disorders include narcolepsy, snoring, sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome, insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.

The Mount Nittany Health sleep management program recently received accreditation for a five-year period from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Accreditation of sleep disorder centers by the AASM is a voluntary process for the assessment of sleep programs, and successful accreditation supports the sleep management program’s assurance of quality patient care through comprehensive clinical evaluation and treatment.

Dr. John Solic specializes in sleep management for Mount Nittany Physician Group.

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