As Daylight Savings Time begins this Sunday, March 13, many of us will welcome the opportunity to spend more time outdoors with one extra hour of daylight.
But, the time change also means we will lose one hour of precious sleep, and when you wake up Monday morning, many people will feel sluggish and fatigued, reaching for that cup of joe for an energy boost.
Dr. Kendra Becker, a sleep medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente, says preparing your body will help you to better cope with the time change, as the effects on your sleep cycle could have dangerous consequences unless you take certain steps to minimize the impact.
“This temporary loss of sleep can increase your tiredness, worsen your performance of tasks, and studies have shown it could also increase your risk of heart attacks and car accidents,” Becker cautioned. “Children affected by sleep deprivation also have a harder time in school and potentially worsened behavior.”
Becker noted the internal sleep cycle often shifts and normalizes within a few days, or up to one week after Daylight Savings Time starts. She recommends the following to help adjust and minimize any potential negative health effects:
• Ideally, start preparing for the time change a couple of days before, as one would when they travel across time zones.
•To help better adjust a sleep cycle, start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for up to three to four days before the time change.
•Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. This will help your brain secrete melatonin naturally and earlier in the evening to help with the shifting of your body’s internal clock.
•Finally, practice good sleep hygiene: avoid electronics, late snacks, caffeine and alcohol before going to bed.
“Losing an hour of sleep may be challenging for many in the beginning, but it doesn’t have to be hard,” Becker said. “It’s all about embracing the change and taking steps to minimize the impact. After all, we don’t have a choice. The time change will take place whether we want it to or not, so from a health standpoint, we need to adjust and embrace it.”