Don't Lose Sleep Over Daylight Savings Time

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness March 09, 2012
It’s that time of year again to turn the clocks forward!  Daylight Savings Time takes place at 2 a.m. central standard time on Sunday, March 11. While most Americans will feel only slightly sluggish from the lost hour of sleep, a significant number of people will experience disruptions in normal sleep patterns as a result of the time change, which can affect performance and safety.

According to Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, director of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Center and the associate director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, many people mistakenly assume that the only consequence of sleep deprivation is a feeling of drowsiness. Other consequences can include difficulty focusing, irritability and more seriously, drowsy driving.

Leading up to the time change, Zee recommends going to sleep earlier on Saturday and Sunday night, and getting exposure to bright outdoor or indoor light in the morning, which will acclimate your body’s clock to the new time. Zee also reminds people that Daylight Savings is not the only time when it’s important to focus on sleep regimen, and that prolonged sleep problems have been associated with high blood pressure, weight gain and trouble with memory and learning.

If you have difficulty sleeping, Zee recommends talking with your doctor.  Trouble sleeping can be a sign of a sleep, medical or psychiatric disorder that with proper treatment can improve.

The number of hours needed for sleep depends on individual factors and can range from seven to nine hours. Many Americans’ standard work schedules now average nine to 10 hours, and the day’s challenges and stresses may make falling asleep quickly difficult. “The 24-7 culture that we all live in makes it difficult to transition from waking to sleeping hours, since cell phones, e-mail and computers are always at our fingertips,” said Zee.
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