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Tips to Prevent Sleep Loss During the Daylight Saving Time Change

Use these tips to help you and your family rest easy.

When we set our clocks ahead each March and begin the Daylight Saving Time change, it means spring is just around the corner. It also signals a change in our sleep habits. In fact, most of us slept an average of 40 minutes less the night it began. That’s because sleep runs on an internal clock that is governed by our circadian rhythm.

“Our 24 hour clock relies on light as a major cue,” says sleep expert Joyce Walsleben, RN, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. “That's what causes the change in your sleeping habits, when we enter Daylight Savings Time.” The good news? It’s easy to get your internal clock back in synch and once you do, you can enjoy all that extra sunshine that this spring and summer has to offer! Here’s how:  

  • See the light Once Daylight Saving Time (DST) is in effect, one of the best ways to help your body clock to adjust is to expose yourself to bright light each morning. This is thanks to photoreceptors in the retina that sense both light and dark and relay this information to the brain. This helps stop the secretion of melatonin, the sleep inducing substance. For the same reason, you’ll want to avoid bright light in the evening, from say computer screens, so that you’re able to sleep.
  • Help your kids adjust to DST  “Young children may stay on their old schedule longer and older children may be hard to get to bed and have trouble falling asleep in daylight,” says Dr. Walsleben. The solution? Give your young ones a nap to make up for the loss of the hour of sleep that they lose in the spring. As for your older kids, help them sleep easier by installing darkening shades.
  • Napping is okay for adults too “Naps can be very helpful to get you through Daylight Saving Time,” says Dr. Walsleben. “Aim for 30 minutes, but don’t do it too close to bedtime or it will disrupt your sleep.”
  • Stick with your regular routine The best way to adjust to the new time is to keep to your old schedule. Pretty soon, it will feel like the new normal.
  • Put safety first Keep in mind that you may be less alert while doing sedentary things like driving.  Research shows that there is a small increase in traffic accidents on the Monday after DST takes effect. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that the Monday and Tuesday after the switch to DST means a 10 percent increase in the risk of heart attack.

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