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As the clocks go forward and daylight savings time begins this weekend, you may be worried about the lost hours of sleep and how to adjust to this change.
Although technically one hour is lost due to the time change, the amount of sleep deprivation due to disturbed sleep lasts for many days and often throws people off schedule, leading to cumulative sleep loss.
Many studies have shown that there is an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure with sleep deprivation. They increase workplace injuries and so do car accidents. Teenagers often find it harder to wake up on time for school and have difficulty with attention and school performance or develop mental problems.
Is there anything that can be done to help with this loss of sleep and change in the body clock?
We lead a sleep assessment center at the University of Pittsburgh Children’s Medical Center in Pittsburgh and regularly see patients who are dealing with sleep loss and internal clocks not aligning with external time. Our experience shows us that it is important to prepare as much as possible for the changing weather that occurs every spring.
Here are some quick tips to prepare you for the upcoming weekend.
Don’t start by “sleeping due”
Make sure that you and, if you are a parent, your child get adequate sleep regularly, especially leading up to the turn of the year. Most adults need anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep each day to function adequately. Children have different needs for sleep depending on their age.
First bed – and get up
Going to bed – and for parents, putting your kids to bed – 15 to 20 minutes before each night in the week before change time is ideal. Having time before waking up can help you fall asleep earlier.
They try to wake up earlier than usual on Saturday, the day before the time change. If you can’t sleep in advance of the changes, you will have a more consistent time to wake up on the weekends and during the week and adjust to the change more easily.
Use it to your advantage
The strongest light is derived by adapting to the body’s internal clock. Expose yourself to bright light in the morning, so that you start getting up earlier in the week before daylight savings time. This resets your internal clock to the right direction. If you live in a place where natural light is limited in the morning after the clocks change, use bright light to signal your body clock to wake up earlier. As time progresses, this flow decreases as the sun rises earlier in the day.
At night, high exposure to bright light and especially blue light emitted by screens of electronic devices. This light exposure late in the day can be enough to shift your body rhythm and signal your internal clock to wake up the next day. If your thoughts allow, put the shelves dark and emit less blue light in the evening.
In some geographic areas, it will help to have room-darkening curtains at bedtime, as much sun as your bedroom receives at bedtime. Make sure to open the curtains in the morning to add natural morning light to the waking cycle of sleepiness.
They carefully plan their day and evening activities.
The night before the time to change, set yourself up for a good night’s sleep by incorporating relaxing activities that can help you unwind, such as reading a book or meditating.
Incorporate exercise in the morning or early in the day. Take a walk, even if it’s just around your house or office during the day.
Pay attention to what you eat and drink this week
Consider starting with a protein-heavy breakfast, because sleep deprivation can increase your appetite and cause you to crave high-carbohydrate foods and sugars.
Do not use caffeine in the afternoon. Coffee, tea, cola, chocolate or other sources of caffeine late in the day can lead to trouble falling asleep and even disrupt sleep.
Adolescents refuse wine for a time. Wine and other types of alcohol can also disrupt sleep.
Be very gentle with yourself and the kids
If you are a parent or caregiver, try to be patient with your kids as they adjust to the new times. Sleep deprivation affects the whole family, and some kids have a harder time adjusting to the weather change than others. You may experience more frequent meltdowns, irritability and loss of attention and focus. Put away more quiet, electronic media free time in the evening. Consider taking a short – 20-minute or so – nap in the early afternoon for younger children who have a difficult time with this transition. Prioritizing sleep will pay off in the short term and over the years. A good night’s sleep is a necessary ingredient for a productive and fulfilling day.
Deepa Burman is the codirector of the Pediatric Sleep Evaluation Center and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh. Hiren Muzumdar He directs the Pediatric Sleep Evaluation Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh.
This is an updated and slightly shorter version It is an article first published in Colloquium in 2019.
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