Sleep is essential to feeling refreshed and rested, and is an indispensable part of a healthy lifestyle. When you set your clock forward an hour on March 11, your sleep cycle can be affected. Changing the time when we go to bed and wake up causes our internal clocks to become out of sync.
Encourage everyone in your family to try going to sleep a little earlier each day for about four days before that date, to ease them into the change. Otherwise, that lost hour of sleep can make it very difficult to get up Monday morning for school and work. This is especially important for teens who drive themselves to school—a lot of car accidents happen around Daylight Savings Time.
In addition, try these tips so you don’t feel groggy the next morning:
- Take a short nap Sunday so you feel more rested on Monday morning.
- Don’t expose yourself to bright light when it is dark. If you don’t have a night light in your bathroom, install one, so you don’t have to turn on the light in the middle of the night.
- Get up as late as you possibly can without being late on Monday, to give yourself precious extra minutes of sleep.
- Sit near sunlight Monday morning—sun sets the internal clock forward.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can interfere with good sleeping habits.
Because changing the clock can interfere with sleep, it’s a good time to evaluate your sleep habits and make simple changes to improve them.
Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours for most adults, and 8-10 hours for teens) isn’t a luxury. Being short on sleep can make you less alert, impair your memory, put stress on relationships, and increase your risk of car accidents. Long-term health problems related to too little sleep include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Lack of sleep can also contribute to obesity, depression, and lower sex drive.
To improve your sleep, try these tips:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This keeps your biological clock in sync. You can’t make up for a week of skimpy sleep by sleeping in on the weekend.
- Establish a nighttime routine for yourself to help your body settle down for the night. Choose relaxing activities, such as reading a book (not related to work) or taking a warm bath.
- Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room, on a comfortable, supportive mattress.
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom – including TVs, laptops and smartphones.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day- they can interfere with sleep.
- If you’re stressed while you try to get to sleep, make a list of all the things you need to do, then give yourself permission to relax.
If you start making changes now to improve your sleep, you can increase the odds your body will be well prepared whenever it’s time to turn the clock forward or back.
—Anita Bhola, MD, Medical Director Sleep Medicine at Nyack Hospital