Northwestern Medicine

Don't Lose Sleep Over Daylight Saving Time

Northwestern Memorial Hospital March 07, 2013

Northwestern Medicine expert offers tips to help you spring forward with ease

CHICAGO, IL – On Sunday, March 10, it will be time to once again change the clocks as Daylight Saving time takes place at 2 am central standard time. While “springing forward” means a loss hour of sleep that may cause some people to feel sluggish on Sunday and Monday, most will quickly adjust. However, for a significant number of Americans, losing just one hour of sleep and having to wake up when the timing of your biological clock has not yet adjusted can affect performance and safety.

“Sleep issues are on the rise and widespread, yet many people dismiss the problem and don’t realize the consequences that can result,” said Northwestern Medicine neurologist Hrayr Attarian, MD. “Even one hour of lost sleep can take a toll on one’s health and many individuals experience grogginess, difficulty focusing, irritability and more seriously, drowsy driving. Statistically, the days following Daylight Saving there are more car accidents due to the lack of alertness.” To prepare for the time change, Attarian recommends going to sleep earlier on Saturday and Sunday night, and getting exposure to bright outdoor or indoor light in the morning, which will help acclimate your body’s clock to the new time. Attarian also reminds people that Daylight Saving is not the only time when it’s important to focus on sleep regimen. Prolonged sleep problems have been associated with high blood pressure, weight gain and trouble with memory and learning.

“Most people experience some difficulty sleeping at some point, but don’t talk with their doctors because they don't think there is help," said Attarian, who is also an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “It’s important to know that trouble sleeping can be a sign of a sleep, medical or psychiatric disorder that can be improved with proper treatment.”

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 daily challenges and stresses may make falling asleep quickly difficult. “The 24/7 culture that we now live in makes it difficult to transition from waking to sleeping hours, since cell phones, e-mail and computers are always at our fingertips,” added Attarian.  

According to Attarian, the common misconception that you “can get away” with less sleep is untrue. The amount of sleep you need is genetically predetermined and if you do not get the right amount you will accumulate a sleep debt which may require payback at inappropriate times. To help people get a good night’s sleep this weekend and throughout the year, Attarian offers the following tips on proper sleep habits.  

  • Consistency is key – Stick to a regular bed time; setting your internal clock helps your body auto-start the sleep process accordingly.
  • Work up a sweat – Exercise can give your body something to rest from and help you stay asleep at night. To allow enough wind-down time, it’s best to complete exercise at least two to three hours before going to bed.
  • Set bedroom boundaries – Make sure the bedroom is only for going to sleep. It shouldn’t be a place to watch TV, do work, surf the internet or eat.
  • Set the stage – Take a hot shower then get into a cool bed. The drop in your body’s temperature after taking a hot shower and entering a cooler room is a process that naturally mimics day and night, and may help guide you to sleep.
  • Put your thoughts to bed – Jot down your to-do list for the next day and keep it near the bed to avoid racing thoughts that can prevent you from falling and staying asleep.
  • Relax - Avoid activities such as going online or watching TV that will hold your interest and keep you engaged. Listening to music or reading something that you find mindless in a dimly lit area may help you feel sleepy.

If sleep doesn’t come naturally or you experience excessive sleepiness during the day despite a good sleep regimen, speak with your physician to determine the cause of sleep loss and regain control over your ability to be well-rested. Northwestern Memorial Hospital Sleep Disorders Center conducts day and night studies for the diagnosis and treatment of a multitude of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, nocturnal behaviors such as sleep walking, talking and eating in sleep, acting out dreams and narcolepsy.

Northwestern Medicine is the shared vision that joins Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a collaborative effort to transform medicine through quality healthcare, academic excellence and scientific discovery.

Learn more about Northwestern Medicine Sleep Health Centers.

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