WESTCHESTER, Ill.November 4 marks the first year that standard time will take effect on the first Sunday in November instead of the last Sunday in October. While many people may use the extra hour to watch TV, surf the Internet, stay out late, or catch up on chores, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) advises everyone to use the extra hour to pay off sleep debt.

Clete Kushida, MD, PhD, of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., and a member of the AASM board of directors, says that, in modern society, work and family responsibilities often take precedence over sleep.

“It’s important to make sleep a priority, particularly since the lack of it results in daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory problems, and mood changes, any of which can decrease productivity at work and increase family stress,” says Kushida. “In addition, there is some scientific evidence that sleep loss may be linked to impairment of the immune system as well as to increased appetite and weight gain. Fortunately, the switch to standard time provides a good opportunity to obtain additional sleep. The key to taking advantage of the time switch is to go to bed earlier.”

Ralph Downey III, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., says that an extra hour of sleep will go a long way toward rejuvenation, both physically and mentally. He adds that, while we can borrow more time to complete all of the activities on our “to do” list, we cannot borrow good health.

“Rare are the things in life that are free,” says Downey. “But, such a rare free gift awaits us this fall. With the fall time change, we get an extra hour to do with as we please. If we sleep the extra hour, our mind and body will thank us. While we can’t save time, we can spend it wisely by spending the extra hour sleeping.”

Dr. Downey notes that, although taking advantage of the extra hour of sleep afforded to us would be beneficial, sleep is something that should be prioritized every day.

“Many people don’t get the amount of sleep they should be getting every night,” says Downey. “We live in a very fast-paced society, and are in a constant rush to meet the endless list of demands that are placed on us. Our minds are so pre-occupied that, at many times, we lose sight of the importance of sleep, and don’t stop to think that poor sleep can affect our ability to perform all of these tasks. People need to recognize the important role that sleep plays in each of our daily lives, and take into account that how we feel, think, and perform is all dictated by the amount of sleep we get.”

Several studies that outline the negative consequences of sleep debt were presented at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society, this past June, including the following:

  • Chronic sleep restriction has a negative effect on a person’s cardiac activity, which may elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
  • Skimping on sleep might increase the risk of diabetes.
  • Insufficient sleep has an adverse effect on a person’s executive functioning.
  • Even a single night of sleep deprivation can impact a person’s eye-steering coordination, which may provide a useful method of detecting when a driver is in danger of losing control of a vehicle due to fatigue before the driver actually falls asleep.
  • Those who don’t get enough sleep are less likely to cook their own meals and, instead, opt to eat fast food. It is the lack of nutritional value of this restaurant-prepared food that may cause health problems down the road.
  • Incomplete recovery from sleep debt increases the neurobehavioral vulnerability to further sleep restriction.

The following studies presented at SLEEP 2007 show that a lack of sleep can have a harmful effect on not just adults, but children and teens as well:

  • Short sleep duration can lead to obesity in children, adolescents and adults worldwide.
  • Sleep loss or disturbed sleep can heighten the risk for adolescents to take up smoking and drinking.
  • Students with bad sleep are more likely to receive bad grades in classes such as math, reading and writing than peers who get enough sleep.
  • Even mild sleep loss produces marked deficits in children’s cognitive development and linguistic functioning – skills necessary for reading and language development and comprehension.
  • Poor sleep hygiene is associated with both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems.

More than half of all Americans suffer from some form of a sleep disorder. The National Institutes of Health states sleep disorders account for an estimated annual cost of $15 billion in health care expenses and $50 billion in lost productivity.

Sleep need depends on many factors, including age. For most adults, seven-to-eight hours a night is recommended to achieve good health and optimum performance. It is recommended that children in pre-school sleep between 11-13 hours a night, and school-aged children between 10-11 hours of sleep a night. Teenagers, on average, require about nine or more hours of sleep per night.

The AASM encourages people to discuss any sleep-related problems with a primary care doctor or a sleep specialist.

Because the upcoming time change occurs in the middle of the night, sleep cycles can be disturbed. The AASM offers some guidelines for better sleep:

  • On the night of the time change, turn your clocks back one hour.
  • Do not nap during the day. If you must snooze, limit the time to less than one hour and no later than 3 p.m.
  • Maintain a regular wake-up time, even on weekends.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, heavy meals, and exercising a few hours before bedtime.
  • Stick to rituals that help you relax each night before bed. This can include such things as a warm bath, a light snack or a few minutes of reading.
  • Don’t take your worries to bed. Bedtime is a time to relax, not to hash out the stresses of the day.
  • If you can’t fall asleep, leave your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity. Return to bed only when you are tired.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and a little cool.

AASM is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research.

To arrange an interview with an AASM spokesperson on how to adjust your sleep schedule to the upcoming time change, please contact Jim Arcuri, public relations coordinator, at (708) 492-0930, ext. 9317, or jarcuri@aasm.org.

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