In a sleep deprived society, Daylight Saving Time can add insult to injury. We win some with springing our bodies forward, however, can lose some as well. It just depends on how you deal with it.
Dr. Natalie Dautovich, National Sleep Foundation’s Environmental Scholar and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University says most Americans are not obtaining sufficient, good quality sleep. She further details an estimated 23.5 million experiences symptoms consistent with the diagnosis of insomnia, indicating they have difficulty falling or staying asleep or waking up too early, despite adequate opportunity to sleep.
And now you’re telling me you want to take an hour away in preparation for springtime – ouch!
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“Anytime we experience a shift in our environmental time, whether from the change to Daylight Saving Time or via travel, we can experience a desynchronization between our internal body clock and the external time,” Dr. Dautovich, whose background includes a focus on behavioral sleep medicine and aging.
The Sleep Ambassador® and Director of Circadian Corporate Sleep Programs Nancy H. Rothstein, MBA agrees, “Your body did not decide to change the time. It thinks it’s 9 o’clock, but the clock reads 8 o’clock.” Both professionals indicate your body’s response can vary depending on your current health and habits.
Dr. Dautovich says side effects may include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, indigestion and negative mood, “Our sleep is directly connected to our health. It’s hard to find a domain of physical or mental functioning that isn’t protected or improved by obtaining healthy sleep.”
Rothstein cites research has shown lackluster sleep can lead to further complications such as cardiovascular problems, obesity and depression. While we can’t stop Daylight Saving Time infringing on our sleep twice a year, the sleep experts say don’t bury your head underneath your pillow and hope to catch up on your z’s after the fact.
Their recommendations include setting the clock back in advance of the time change in increments of 10 to 15 minutes. In the mornings, expose yourself to daylight as soon as possible to wake up. At night, ensure your bedroom is as dark as possible with blackout curtains or an eye mask.
Rothstein suggests when your sleep schedule is off or you just so happen to wake up in the middle of the night, avoid looking at the clock at all costs. “You begin counting how many hours or minutes you have left to sleep. Your brain starts working. Don’t activate your brain,” she says.
Still having trouble adjusting? She says focus on your breathing and relaxing your body starting with your feet and working your way up. “Give your body permission to relax. Thank it for working so hard for you,” she adds. “…Ease into the time change and use this time to focus on your sleep habits to help you all year round… It’s critical for people focused on their muscles and fitness to get the sleep their bodies need and deserve, regardless of what the clock says.”