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Daylight Savings Time; But I need my sleep!

Have you rebounded from losing an hour of sleep from Daylight Savings Time?  An hour doesn’t seem like much and our bodies are usually equipped to tolerate this change with minimal disturbance. Unfortunately, we do experience the consequences of that lost hour for up to a few weeks after the time change. It is not the hour of sleep that we’re losing that impacts us as much, but more the result that we are already sleep deprived and this is just one more hour on top of our countless hours of sacrificed sleep. We always sacrifice sleep to get more accomplished in our day. The thought is that we can always make up that sleep deficit on the weekend.  However, once the weekend comes we have errands to run and tasks that need to be completed.  There comes a point in which we can no longer “make up” our sleep deficit on the weekend because we owe ourselves too many hours.  It is not surprising that one third of Americans will experience a sleep problem throughout their lifetime; of that another one-third will experience chronic sleep problems. 

What does sleep have to do with health?  Heart attack risk increases 25% the Monday after daylight savings time.  The increase in heart attacks mostly affects people who were already high risk of suffering a heart attack. Along with the increase in heart attacks, there are increases in accidents (work and car), increases in neurocognitive difficulties, gastrointestinal issues, and increases in irritability. Also, there is a connection between poor sleep and a propensity for mood disorders, stress, attentive deficit hyperactivity disorder and even dementia.  Sleep is so important to one’s mental health that it is included in the criteria for diagnosing many common disorders. 

According to sleepfoundation.org, the recommended hours of sleep for a preschooler (ages 3-5) is 10-13 hours, for school age children (6-13) is 9-11 hours, for teenagers (14-17) is 8-10 hours, for younger adults (18-25) and adults (26-64) is 7-9 hours and for older adults (65+) is 7-8 hours.  Sleep is essential for your health and well-being, along with diet and exercise. You can visit https://sleepfoundation.org/bedtimecalculatoruse and use their sleep calculator to help determine how much sleep you need.

Benefits of proper sleep

  • Improve memory: during sleep your brain strengthens memories or practices skills that were learned during waking time. This is called consolidation.
  • There is evidence that you can live longer with a balanced lifestyle.
  • Reduction of inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging.  Research indicates that people who get six or fewer hours of sleep a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more.
  • Sharpen attention: in children, lack of sleep can present as irritability and hyperactivity, inattentive and impulsivity which mimic ADHD symptoms.
  • Contributes to maintaining a healthy weight:  Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain.  Certain hormones increase in your blood when you are asleep, and those certain hormones also drive appetite.
  • Lower stress and much more 

Now that we know about the benefits of improved sleep, how do we go about ensuring that we have a good night’s sleep? Here are some recommendations: 

  • Maintain a sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends. That means waking up at the same time every day and going to sleep at the same time every day.  Setting a bed time is crucial; yes, even for adults.
  • Establish a sleep routine to start preparing the mind and body for rest. If possible, take a hot or warm shower to increase body temperature. When you come out of a warm shower into a cooler bedroom, your body temperature will drop. The drop in temperature signals your body that it's time to rest, slowing down essential metabolic functions including heart rate, breathing, and digestion.
  • Designate a sleep time that will allow for at least 7 hours of sleep (children and adolescents need more sleep).
  • If you’re having difficulty sleeping and resting keep a sleep log for two weeks to establish trends. 

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