Beware the Dangers of Daylight Saving Time

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The change of season from winter to spring is officially marked in some countries by the start of Daylight Saving Time (DST) when clocks are put forward an hour. In the US and Canada, the changeover happens on March 9. The UK has Summer Time, which begins on the last Sunday in March and continues to the first Sunday in October.

In the Australian states that practice it, Daylight Saving starts on the first weekend in October as it does New Zealand and continues until the first weekend in April.

Daylight Saving Steals an Hour of Sleep

No matter which country or time zone practices DST, the effect is the same.  The clocks are put forward an hour on the evening of the changeover, usually just before going to bed, resulting in most people losing an hour of sleep.

It’s this loss of sleep which makes the changeover period so dangerous.  Sleep experts at Loyola University Health System say  recent studies have found there’s a higher risk of heart attacks, traffic accidents and workplace injuries on the first Monday of Daylight Saving.

“Many people already are chronically sleep-deprived, and Daylight Saving Time can make them even more tired for a few days,” said Dr. Nidhi Undevia, medical director of the Sleep Program at Loyola University Health System.

Longer–term Sleep problems from DST

But it’s not just those first few days when people are at risk. For some people, the change in sleeping patterns and the perception of daylight persisting longer into the early night, mean it can take them weeks to get a good night’s sleep. Insomnia can develop for the unlucky ones.

According to the US National Sleep Foundation, insomnia can be a serious medical condition. It is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, having difficulty staying asleep, waking up often during the night and then having trouble going back to sleep, waking up too early in the morning, or feeling tired upon awakening.

Feeling dopey or  “woolly headed” the day after a poor night’s sleep  makes it hard to concentrate at work, driving or at home. Continuous patterns of sleep deprivation can result in decreased work performance, depression or mood changes, and increased risk of car accidents or accidents when operating machinery.

Tips to Adjust to Daylight Saving Time

If you know that putting the clocks forward each spring upsets your sleeping patterns, Dr Undevia offers these simple tips for coping with DST:

  • In the days before the changeover, go to bed 10 or 15 minutes earlier and set your alarm to wake up 10 or 15 minutes earlier each day.
  • Don’t nap on the Saturday before the time change.
  • To help reset your internal body clock, expose yourself to sunlight in the morning as early as you can.

Other sleep experts suggest varying your routine by a whole hour at each end of the night.  One way would be to start with 15 minutes a week before the changeover and increase it until you are managing the whole hour.

Tips To Develop Good Sleeping Habits

To develop good sleeping patterns after the changeover, try these tips:

  • Don’t nap during the day or while watching tv in the evening. If you find yourself dozing over the tv, get up and do something active for 20 minutes or more.
  • Go to bed at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning
  • Don’t sit up late every night watching tv, playing video games or surfing the net.
  • Don’t have caffeinated drinks for at least an hour before going to bed.
  • Don’t read or watch tv after you’ve gone to bed.

You might also be interested to read Don’t Lose Sleep Over DST and Women’s Sleep Problems Spill Over into the Day.

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