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Spring Forward--Are You Ready?

By Michael J. Breus, PhD

Spring Forward

I write regularly about the state of sleep deprivation in today’s society. This situation isn’t going to be helped by the start of daylight savings time this Sunday, March 11th. The time change in the spring is always more difficult than in the fall since we spring forward and end up losing an hour of our day—and since that time change officially happens at 2 AM on Sunday morning, the hour we lose is an hour of sleep.

I know there can be great benefits to changing the clocks – we will gain an extra hour of sunlight in many cases; there are studies that have shown energy savings in the clock change. But I hate sacrificing an extra of much needed shut-eye when we are already a society that is chronically sleep deprived!

So who do I predict will have the most difficulty with the time change? People who like to stay up late and those in the southeastern part of the United States. Sound like a strange prediction? Well here are my reasons…

In a recent study in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine we learned that sleep problems and fatigue seem to vary by STATE! I find this data fascinating.

The 10 states that currently have the most sleep disturbance in descending order include:

  • West Virginia
  • Oklahoma
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Utah
  • Nevada
  • Michigan

When reviewing the study I noted that they controlled for things like age, sex, education, ethno racial group, income, employment, general health, healthcare access, and depression to try and explain why these states seem to suffer so much. Whether you live in one of these states or not, anyone losing an hour will feel the effects of it, especially if you are already sleep deprived (and you know who you are).

But the good news does not stop there.

Did you know that night owls are more affected by the time change than early birds?

According to a 2008 study, during the time change night owls have significantly more restless sleep. Do you know if you are a night owl or a morning lark? This chart can help you decide:

Ask yourself the following questions:

  Early Bird Night Owl
I feel Alert In the early morning Late in the evening
I feel the sleepiest In the early evening Past midnight
I enjoy waking up At 6am or earlier At 8 am or later
I have the most energy A few hours after waking A few hours before bed

So if you are a night owl from West Virginia, what can you do before disaster strikes and you only become more sleep deprived?

1.      Go to bed 20 minutes earlier Friday and Saturday. This will help your body adjust to the difference easier.

2.      When you wake up Sunday morning, immediately change the time on your bedroom clock. Help your brain visualize the time change.

3.      Eat lunch and dinner 30-60 minutes earlier for a few days before the time change to get your other daily routines in sync for the new time change.

  1. Beginning a few days before the time change, stop drinking caffeine at 1:00 in the afternoon to help with the earlier bedtime.
  2. Avoid alcohol during the weekend of the time change (this one can be tough).
  3. Keep up your exercise during the week for better sleep quality and maybe throw in an extra workout this weekend.
  4. Make sure you get sunlight in the morning the day of the time change to help reset your body clock.

And if possible, my #1 recommendation for this Monday, March 12, 2012:

Ask your boss if you can either work from home the morning after the time change, March 12, 2012, or come in late.

The roads will be filled with sleep deprived people running late for work or school!

Be aware of your bedtime routine as the clock springs forward—otherwise you might fall back asleep at the wrong time.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
www.thesleepdoctor.com

The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan:  Lose Weight Through Better Sleep

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Photo: iStockphoto
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