The good news about this weekend’s switch to Daylight Saving Time is that you’ll have an extra hour of sunlight when you clock out of work to take a bike ride or whatever activity you’ve been deprived of by the early sunsets of winter.
The annual ritual of springing your clocks forward takes can take some getting used to, though.
You’ll lose an hour of sleep Saturday night and Sunday morning with the switch to Daylight Saving Time — officially at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 13 — and it will mostly likely be dark outside when you get up for the next few weeks.
Difficulty adjusting isn’t just psychological. A study two years ago by the University of Michigan showed that the short-term risk of a heart attack goes up about 25 percent after the time switch.
U-M cardiologist Dr. Hitinder Gurm, the study’s author, said that though it’s tough to pinpoint an exact reason, data showed a 25 percent surge in heart attacks on the first full work day after the time switch.
Researchers have long known that most heart attacks occur on Mondays, but the study suggests that the stress Americans go through as they to adjust their internal clocks to the time change plays a role in the spike in heart attacks, Gurm said.
So, what are the best ways to avoid sleep deprivation — which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says already affects about one-third of adults in the United States? Here are some tips:
- You know it’s coming. Go to bed an hour early Saturday, and make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep.
- Get the kids to bed early, too. They pay more attention to their internal clocks than timepieces, so implement the routine Saturday night to help them adjust to the lighter-than-usual bedtime. That way, they’ll be set up for a good night’s sleep before school on Monday.
- Be patient with the kids. They may throw temper tantrums or show signs of frustration, but it’s usually short lived. Adults can be also be cranky during the first several days after the time switch. You’ll get over it, too.
- New baby? Pretend nothing has changed. That means taking the baby outside, even if it’s cold, to help the baby’s internal clock adjust. Getting 30 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning will help you, too.
- Don’t give in to the urge for a long nap. Take a brief power nap if you need, but longer naps will disrupt your sleep schedule and make it more difficult to adjust to Daylight Saving Time.
- Limit your vices. That shot of booze before bedtime may seem like a good idea, but it will fragment your sleep. And, of course, limit your caffeine intake in the late afternoon and evening. Chamomile tea or a glass of warm milk are better choices.
- Don’t eat a big meal right before bedtime, either.
- If you are using the extra hour of daylight at the end of the day for exercise, make sure your session ends three hours before bedtime, because the energy boost exercise gives you can cause insomnia.
- Wind down with a relaxing activity, like a warm bath or shower, gentle stretching or yoga.
- Let the sun shine in. Experts say that pulling back the curtains and allowing the sun to shine in the windows in the morning improves alertness during the day. You’re also more likely to feel sleepy when it is time to go to bed.
- Turn off the bright lights an hour or two before you go to bed — yes, even the television, your computer and other electronic devices. Read a relaxing book or listen to soothing music instead.
- Make your bedroom is a sleep sanctuary — dark, quiet, well ventilated and at a slightly cooler temperature.
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