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Health break: Daylight saving time can throw your body off

Daylight saving time began at 2 a.m. on 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, GI function and our 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 your body’s “normal time.”

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 in the fall rather than shortening our day like we do in the spring.

The beginning of daylight saving time is 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 this change, continue going to bed at the same time every night rather than trying sleeping an extra hour to compensate for the time lost. Make sure you are getting a full seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night and not trying to operate on five or six hours.

Also make sure you are sleeping in a darkened, cool room. 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 — marked by restless nights, problems concentrating throughout the day, memory trouble or daytime fatigue — and calming rituals like reading before bed or taking a warm bath do not help, you should speak with your physician to see if it’s recommended that you see a sleep specialist.

The Mount Nittany Health Sleep Management Program in State College can help find the cause of and determine appropriate treatment for sleep disorders that affect daily life. Common sleep disorders include narcolepsy, snoring, sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome, insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.

The Mount Nittany Health Sleep Management Program is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Accreditation of sleep disorders 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. To learn more, visit mount nittany.org or call 231-7277.

John Solic is a sleep medicine specialist at Mount Nittany Physician Group.

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