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Time Change Means Turning Clocks Back on Sunday

SUNDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The massive East Coast power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy may make it moot for many, but clocks still need to be turned back an hour this weekend.

Unfortunately, your internal body clock may not adjust to the change, but instead react to the cycles of sunlight, said Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a sleep specialist and pulmonologist at the Sleep Disorders Center at Winthrop University Hospital, in Mineola, N.Y.

"In the fall, earlier light exposure in the morning may cause people to wake up earlier," Ahmed explained. "This can cause daytime sleepiness. Many may find the fall time change particularly difficult, because they already have a tendency to awaken early in the morning and get sleepy in the early evening."

To deal with the time change, Ahmed suggests the following:

  • Maintain your regular bedtime and awaken at your regular time. This can give you an "extra" hour of sleep the next morning, and help reduce your sleep debt
  • Block out light, and keep your sleeping area dark. Standard Time means sunrise will occur about an hour earlier. This can impact sleep, especially for people accustomed to waking up around sunrise. The light itself can disturb sleep, so it is always best to sleep in a darkened room
  • Increase the light when you wake up. Light has an alerting effect, and it will also help adjust your biological clock to the "new" sleeping schedule.
  • Phase in changes to your sleep pattern: If you are a "night owl" and tend to be wide awake and energetic until late at night and sleepy in the morning, start a week ahead; a gradual delay in bedtime and awakening a few days before the time change may help you adjust to the change.
  • Avoid stimulants, and don't exercise or have caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or heavy meals close to bedtime.

Those most likely to experience problems with the switch to standard time are people who tend to wake early in the morning and are sleepy early in the evening (morning types), experts say.

The National Sleep Foundation offers some tips to help you adjust to this weekend's time change:

  • Start changing your sleep schedule a few days ahead of the time change by gradually advancing bedtime and wake-up time by 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Give your body three to four days to adjust to the new time schedule.
  • If you want to enjoy an extra hour of sleep, go to bed at your regular time on Saturday night, and wake up at your regular time on Sunday morning.
  • Keep your bedroom as dark as possible and reduce the amount of light that will enter your room when sunrise occurs an hour earlier.
  • Reduce or avoid consumption of alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, all of which can make it more difficult for your body's internal clock to adjust to the time change.

More information

The U.S. Institute of General Medical Sciences has more about circadian rhythms.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: State University of New York and New York University, news releases, Nov. 1, 2012

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