WESTCHESTER, Ill.With the return of daylight-saving time (DST) to many parts of the United States, this is the first year DST will take effect on the second Sunday in March instead of the first Sunday in April. To ensure a smooth transition to the new time, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) advises everyone to re-adjust their sleep schedule a few days prior to the beginning of DST.

Donna Arand, PhD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Kettering Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, says that the upcoming time change means that we will lose an hour of sleep only if we keep our usual sleep schedule.

“This will result in sleepiness and impaired performance for days or weeks until we make up the lost sleep and our body adjusts to the earlier bedtime,” said Arand. “However, we can reduce the impact of the time change by planning ahead. A few days prior to the time change, start getting up about 15 minutes earlier each morning and going to bed 15 minutes earlier at night. This will help assure continued daytime alertness, maximal daytime functioning, and improved mood.”

Although the time change involves only an hour loss, researchers have found that the disruption in sleep patterns associated with setting the clock forward correlates with an increase in the number of traffic accidents and lost productivity as sleep disrupted workers adjust to the schedule change.

Lawrence Epstein, MD, medical director of Sleep HealthCenters in Brighton, Mass., agrees, saying that sleep deprivation reduces job performance, ability to pay attention and learning. He says adjusting your circadian rhythm to a new schedule in order to avoid sleep deprivation requires planning.

“Whether losing an hour due to daylight saving or dealing with jet lag from crossing time zones, you should plan your new sleep schedule to allow time for your body to adjust to the new schedule,” said Epstein. “Anticipating change and preparing a new schedule can prevent developing the ill effects of a time schedule change.”

Ralph Downey III, PhD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., recommends what he advises his patients before they travel: to adjust their biological clock to their destination.

“When they travel from Los Angeles to Rome, for example, they need to plan ahead and set their watches on Rome’s time,” said Downey. “When they get to Rome, they will enjoy it more than if they didn’t make such an early transition. Likewise, when daylight-saving time occurs, people should set their clocks back before the weekend starts. They should start living like it is already Monday. This advice doesn’t sound too great on a Saturday, but it will feel better on Monday, in that a smoother transition of the one-hour shift will take place across three days and nights instead of one – think of it as adjusting 20 minutes per day or night – rather than one hourly change come Monday morning. Come Monday morning, you might be the only bright eyed and bushy tailed employee at the office.”

AASM offers the following tips to help people better cope to the upcoming time change:

  • Begin to re-adjust your sleep schedule a few days prior to the time change by going to bed an hour earlier.
  • Re-adjust your eating schedule by having dinner an hour earlier.
  • Be careful when driving or operating machinery on the day of the time change.
  • Avoid napping, particularly before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine in the morning to wake you up and alcohol at night to help you go to sleep.
  • Keep a light schedule on the Monday after the time change. This involves minimizing driving and avoiding strenuous physical activities.
  • Eat properly, stay well hydrated and remain physically active.

More than half of all Americans suffer from some kind of a sleep disorder, which frequently prevents them from getting the required amount of sleep each night. This is why it is important to discuss any sleep-related problems with a primary care doctor, who will conduct an evaluation and determine whether a visit to a sleep specialist is necessary.

The amount of sleep a person needs depends on many factors, including age. For most adults, seven-to-eight hours a night is recommended to achieve good health and optimum performance.

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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