Daylight-saving time is this Sunday, March 13 at 2 a.m. and that can only mean one thing: spring is coming! Sure, we may be under a winter storm warning tonight and Friday, but we’re still just 10 days away from the first day of spring. So when you’re walking or driving through (hopefully the last of) that white wintery stuff, just remember that longer days, green grass and rising temperatures are on their way.
But this Sunday also means one less hour of sleep. To some, it may be a small price to pay for more sunlit hours in the evening; but to others, the time change is something to which they have difficulty adapting. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help make the change easier:
- Keep a regular bedtime on Saturday night so you can keep a constant sleep schedule and reduce sleep debt.
- Do not nap on Saturday before the time change.
- Since the sun will rise an hour later, make an effort to maintain a dark and quiet sleeping area.
- For people who are more energetic in the morning than evening, simulating the time change a few days in advance can lead to better adjustment.
- Gradually moving bedtime and the desired wake time by 15 minutes every one to two days can ease difficulty in adjusting to the time change.
Maintaining healthy sleep habits throughout the year – not just for daylight-saving time – is important to overall health and well being. Here are some tips to improve your sleep health every night:
- Maintain a regular bed and wakeup time, including the weekends.
- Spend an average of 7-8 hours in bed.
- Avoid reading or watching TV in bed.
- Avoid caffeine within 7 hours of bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine near bedtime and if you wake up during the night.
- Turn the clock around – don’t watch it at night.
- Avoid vigorous exercise within 3 hours of bed time.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and comfortable.
- Avoid daytime napping to sleep better at night.
- Leave the bedroom and engage in a quiet activity if unable to fall asleep. Return to bed only when sleepy.
Beyond daylight-saving time, if you have difficulty sleeping on a nightly basis as nearly half of all Americans do, you may want to talk to you doctor about a possible sleep disorder. While feeling “unrested” may be a daily norm, left untreated, sleep disorders can lead to serious consequences. They can disrupt your daytime effectiveness, affect the quality of your relationships, increase your risk of injury, or make you prone to a serious medical condition, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke.
As a sleep medicine physician, one of the indicators we look at when determining if there may be a sleep disorder is a person’s level of daytime sleepiness. You can take a Sleep Assessment here and if you score 10 or more on this test, you should talk with your primary care physician or a sleep specialist to determine the cause of your excessive daytime sleepiness and identify whether you have an underlying sleep disorder. And if you’re worried about a sleep test, don’t be! Check out my video for an explanation of what happens during a sleep study.
Ben Graef, DO
Sleep Medicine Specialist
Summa Health System