Time Change 2013: Can Daylight Savings Time Affect Your Health?

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TIME CHANGE 2013
On March 9, many North Americans will change their clocks to spring forward. | Shutterstock

At 2 a.m. on Sunday March 10, most people across the country — or more accurately, their clocks' automatic devices — changed their time an hour ahead (or spring forward) to begin daylight savings time.

Technically called daylight saving time, this adjustment in time happens twice a year, once in November and once in March, to help Canadians adapt to seasonal changes.

But as snow melts and flowers begin to bloom, you may also start notice a change in your mood — especially for that extra hour of sleep you give up.

"Most people can switch their schedules right away. It really depends on the individual and how much stress they have in their lives," says naturopathic doctor Chamandeep Bali of Toronto. "If you're the type of person who is always 'go go go', you'll be sleeping less."

Similar to experiencing jet lag, a time change can require the body to start a new sleep schedule, and some experts say our internal clocks may also feel confused. Dr. Sam J. Sugar, director of sleep services at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa says it's harder for our bodies to deal with cutting out an hour, compared to adding one in the fall.

And really, what can that extra hour of sleep really do for you? According to Sleep Tracker, adults should be getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Bali says that extra hour can help boost your mood, your hormones and even your day-to-day energy levels.

"We see car accidents go up, [more drivers get into accidents after daylight saving time] and productivity levels fall because people aren't sleeping well," he adds.

But for the most part, most of you probably won't notice a thing, Bali says. You may just end up feeling a bit crummier that first Monday morning.

How can you help your body adjust to time changes? Check out these tips:

How To Adjust To A Time Change
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Stretch It Out:
Grab your running shoes and head outdoors. With the weather getting warmer, why not use that extra hour of daylight to stretch your legs? Being active gives you more energy, changes your mood and eventually, you'll start feel that extra bounce in your step, says naturopathic doctor Chamandeep Bali of Toronto.

Get More Vitamin D:
Bali says getting vitamin D is important, especially because mood changes are often linked to vitamin D deficiencies. And because fall and winter are almost over, getting your daily dose of vitamin D can mean getting more sun exposure (15 to 30 minutes per day) or taking vitamin D supplements, he adds. "When patients don't have enough vitamin D, they are more likely to get a cold, infections or the flu," he says.

Go To Sleep Earlier...Even If It's Hard:
It's the simple answer, but it never works. Trying to follow a sleep schedule can be challenging enough, but Bali says adjusting to a time change can just be about getting to bed earlier. Try mapping out your day, eating earlier and tiring yourself out before bed.

Early Morning Stretches:
We know, this isn't the easiest thing to get used to either. Bali says waking up earlier and adding in a few exercises or stretches in the morning will help you get to sleep earlier at night. "This way, as the day progresses, you can tire yourself out," he explains.

Snooze With Melatonin:
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles, according to WebMD. Bali says shift workers should be extra alert of their sleeping patterns once the time changes. Melatonin supplements could help those who are having trouble sleeping and not producing enough in their own bodies.

Eat The Right Foods:
A glass of milk before bed (minus the cookies) can also help you sleep better. Eating healthy snacks before bed like small handful of almonds, a bowl of yogurt with berries, or an apple with peanut butter can also help you fall asleep faster.

Make It Easier On Your End:
Your alarm clock is probably the most annoying sound in the morning. To wake up earlier, try moving your clock (or phone) away from your bed to compel you to get up and turn it off.

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