Are you feeling grumpy, sleepy, dopey and a little sneezy this week?

You’re likely suffering from a disruption in your circadian sleep rhythms due to the start of daylight saving time, which began on Sunday.

“On average, Americans lose almost an hour of sleep when we ‘spring forward,’ and it takes several days and sometimes longer to recover and reestablish a regular sleep schedule,” said Rizwana Sultana, a physician who specializes in sleep science at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

“For most of us, the disruption is like a mini jet lag,” she said. “At work you may lack concentration, feel fatigued, and be sleepy in the middle of the day but it should pass in a few days.”

However, those who don’t get as much sleep as they need already will get even less after the time change, and are likely to be more seriously affected, she said.

Also, teenagers who have difficulty going to bed earlier may have a hard time adjusting and may be sleepy for more than several days, she said.

“Circadian rhythms — the body’s 24-hour internal clock — is a powerful biological process that governs the wake and sleep cycles of living beings,” Sultana said.

People’s circadian rhythms follow the sun and change depending on where they live. It actually changes in four-minute intervals, exactly the time it takes for the sun to cross one line of longitude.

Our body clock is internally generated but it is influenced by our environment and behavior, and the difference can be noticeable.

“Sleep disturbance can cause increased irritability, hunger and slower reflexes, which may be one reason why more vehicle accidents occur in the days following the time change,” Sultana said.

In a 2016 study published in “American Economic Journal,” researchers analyzed vehicle accidents immediately before and after daylight saving time in a 10-year period in the United States. Their results showed a 6 percent increase in the number of crashes in the days immediately following the time change.

Also, if you’ve been sticking with a resolution for sensible eating, be on guard. Loss of sleep can affect hormone levels, which lead to how hungry you feel and how long it takes to feel hunger satisfied.

“Sleep deficiency increases the hormone ghrelin, which makes us hungry, and decreases the release of leptin, which makes us feel satisfied when we eat,” Sultana said.

People who are sleep deprived are more likely to become ill, she said.

The German researcher Till Roennberg recently published a paper on circadian rhythms in the journal “Current Biology” urging people to take their sleep cycle seriously.

“When you change clocks to daylight saving time, you don’t change anything related to sun time,” he said.

“This is one of those human arrogances — that we can do whatever we want as long as we are disciplined. We forget that there is a biological clock that is as old as living organisms, a clock that cannot be fooled. The pure social change of time cannot fool the clock.”

Dealing with the time change

If you can’t fool the interior clock, how can you work with it to avoid havoc as your body resets its sleep cycle? Dr. Rizwana Sultana has some recommendations.

1. First you must understand how important sleep is. You are not wasting eight hours, you are allowing time for your body to repair itself and store memories. It’s critical to your health and wellbeing. Six hours is not enough time for your body to do what it needs to do.

2. Do not stay up late. In fact, go to bed earlier than usual. The best practice is to go to bed at least 15 minutes earlier than your usual bedtime leading up to Daylight Savings Time. Remember that children and other family members are going to be grappling with the change too and try to help them get more sleep.

3. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. If you’re having trouble going to sleep, try a winding down routine. Dim the lights. Take a warm bath. Relax.

4. Stand in the sunlight. When Daylight Savings Time begins, it will be dark outside in the morning, which makes it difficult for your body clock to wake up. Try to get as much sun exposure as you can during the day to help ease the transition.

5. Skip the stimulants. You may need a dose of caffeine to get started on a sleep day, but after lunch, skip all the stimulants. They can keep you from going to sleep on time and getting restful sleep.

6. If you feel drowsy, don’t drive. “I tell my patients to call their office and say they’ll be late. It’s better to be late than to never arrive at your destination,” Sultana said. Sometimes taking a 15 or 20-minute nap will give you new energy. And remember, you are not the only drowsy driver on the road. Allow extra time and drive defensively.

7. Practice good sleep hygiene by creating a sleep-friendly environment to enhance your sleep. Your sleeping room should be cool and dark. Try to reduce or eliminate caffeine or alcohol in the time before bed, and create a routine that soothes you, like the warm bath. Wear earplugs or eye masks, if it helps remove distractions, and maybe bring a sweet dream.

(2) comments

Paul Steele

Congressman, please we should stop this dangerous dangerous daylight saving time to save some lives.

George Croix

Fortunately, rotating shift workers at the refineries and chem plants are evidently not sleep science patients....
One size does not fit all....

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