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Daylight Saving Time 2016: How To Sleep Soundly After Changing Clocks

03/14/2016 10:51 EDT | Updated 03/14/2016 10:59 EDT
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Woman napping with her head resting on desk

Daylight Saving Time is happening across the U.S. and Canada this weekend, and although many welcome the lighter mornings, the initial hour change can disrupt sleep as we settle into a new pattern. The result can be feelings of fatigue, mood problems and slower reaction times according to Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center, with previous studies showing an increase in traffic accidents, workplace injuries, and even heart attacks in the days following the shift to daylight saving time.

So to help you get some good-quality slumber, experts give their tips on how to maximize sleep quality to wake up with a spring in your step on these new lighter mornings.

Dr. Alon Avidan, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, suggests that a simple but good rule to bear in mind is that it takes about one day to adjust for each hour of time change. This can vary between individuals however, with Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center specialist Kelly Brown, warning that it can take some people up to two weeks to make the transition.

To minimize disruption Avidan suggests preparing for the change by going to bed earlier on Friday and Saturday night ahead of the change at 2am on Sunday morning, so you are already used to this new sleeping schedule. To ensure you are not sleep-deprived before the change, he also advises seven to eight hours of good quality sleep each night. Brown agrees, suggesting going to bed 15 minutes earlier from as early as the Wednesday before the change to allow your body to ease into the time change.

Both also believe that having a relaxing bedtime routine can help. Take a warm bath, read an enjoyable book, or listen to some soothing music. However both also advise avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evening, as they can disrupt and fragment sleep.

Also limit your exposure to light before bedtime. As the most important circadian cue, light exposure is linked to the release of the hormone melatonin which helps you sleeps, and so avoid bright light and blue light from computer and phone screens for at least two hours before the lights go out.

Once you head to bed a cool, quiet, and dark room which is well-ventilated provides you with the ideal conditions in which to sleep. And when you awake, try to get plenty of natural light and sun exposure so you'll feel alert during the day, and naturally sleepy again at nightfall.

Good habits in daytime

Avidan also suggests avoiding long naps during the day, advising that a short 15 to 20 minute power nap between 1 pm and 3 pm is sufficient should you feel you need a little shut eye. Too much napping may take away the feeling of sleepiness in the evening when you really need it, as well as delay the transition to the new time schedule.

And food can also play a role, with Brown advising that we eat an early breakfast and dinner on the weekend before the time change so as not to interfere with sleep, and eat a good breakfast the Monday morning after the time change.

If two weeks later you're still experiencing the groggy effects of the time change, Brown advises going to see a sleep specialist who may be able to help. "It's very important to note that if you are feeling sleepy during the day or having difficulty falling or staying asleep, you should talk to your primary care provider and consider an evaluation by a sleep physician," she said, adding, "Sleep disorders are highly treatable and their treatment can make a dramatic change in your health and daytime functioning."

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