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Sleep Hygiene Tip of the Week: Surviving the time change

It seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal… you have to change your clocks by only one hour, moving them forward. How can that be a problem?

For some, it isn’t. They already practice good sleep habits and hygiene and planning ahead for a loss of sleep is on their agenda.

But for others… not so much. They may already be sleep deprived or have accrued a considerable sleep debt. They might have an erratic sleep schedule due to work or family demands. They might be suffering from insomnia or a circadian rhythm disorder that makes it hard for them to adjust to any kinds of changes related to sleeping. Sleep, for these people, is a bit of a house of cards: take away just one more hour and the rest of it can all fall down.

Even for healthy sleepers though, the basic equation is that, for every 1 hour of lost sleep, you can expect 3 days to pass before you have completely recovered.

CBS News has this interesting slideshow on the problems that are caused by changes that are part of our twice-annual daylight saving regimen.

There are also organizations out there like Standard Time lobbying to remove the entire daylight saving protocol because it’s antiquated and creates an unhealthy disturbance for everyone.

(Statistics show that an increase in injuries and accidents are sustained as a result of these time changes; Vox covered this yesterday).

But until we make a major change like abolishing Daylight Saving Time, here are some sleep hygiene tips for getting through these disruptions:

  • Gradually go to bed earlier every night and rising earlier in the morning. If you have a regular schedule, “gradual” means 15 minutes prior. If you didn’t start doing this before the onset of the time change, you can still do this early in the week.
  • Don’t take naps during the few few days following the time change. They can have a negative impact on your body’s drive to sleep at night.
  • Be extremely careful with driving. Sleep deprivation and drowsy driving go hand in hand. If you’re tired, pull over and take a cat nap. It’s not worth getting into a car accident!
  • Feeling sluggish in the morning? Go outside and get some morning sun (take a cup of coffee with you, if you like!) or, better yet, go get some exercise. These activities can help reset your circadian system.
  • If you can, try to lighten your schedule at work or home for the first few days in anticipation of daytime fatigue that could be the result of that lost hour. You will recover, it just might take a couple of days.
Thanks to the National Sleep Foundation for the use of their nifty infographic!

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  1. In the shadows of the Daylight Saving Time change, we observe #InsomniaAwareness – SleepyHead CENTRAL

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