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When Clocks Change, Body May Need Time to Adjust

Sleep expert offers tips for those thrown off schedule by Daylight Saving Time

FRIDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- That extra hour of sleep you'll get in most parts of the country over the weekend might be restful, but the beginning of Daylight Saving Time could spell trouble for your body clock, a sleep expert says.

Dr. Atul Malhotra, medical director of the sleep disorders research program in the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, explained in a hospital news release that there are ways to prevent the time change from disrupting your sleep habits.

For most people, the time shift in the spring is more problematic because an hour is "lost" rather than "gained," but for those who are disrupted by any change in schedule, Malhotra offered these coping tips:

  • Stay away from caffeine and other stimulants, especially during the days before and after the time shift, and avoid napping for a few days because it can disrupt your sleeping at night.
  • Sleep through that extra hour if you can instead of trying to get things done.
  • Don't drive if you feel sleepy because of the time shift. Consider taking public transportation for a few days to give your body time to adjust.
  • Relax, avoid stress and remember to take your regular medications over the weekend of the time change.

For those who have trouble sleeping overall, Malhotra suggested the following:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same times, even on weekends. No sleeping in.
  • Avoid food and drinks with caffeine after lunch, including coffee, tea, soda and chocolate.
  • Take 15 to 30 minutes to wind down before heading off to bed.
  • Keep your room dark, quiet and cool; ear plugs and eye masks can help.
  • Keep in mind that time in front of screens -- the computer or television varieties -- before bedtime can disrupt sleep.
  • Don't work or study right before bedtime, in order to allow yourself to relax.
  • Don't exercise strenuously right before bedtime.

More information

Learn more about sleep from the National Sleep Foundation.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, Oct. 26, 2009

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