The switch to Daylight Savings time caps the end of this week’s Sleep Awareness Week observance. Mercy Health Physician Shyamsunder Subramanian, MD, a Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine specialist and Medical Director of Mercy Health – West Sleep Center, notes that patients should be prepared to lose an hour of sleep when it comes time spring forward on Sunday, March 9.
“The human circadian system, or the internal ‘human clock,’ operates on chemical rhythms that tell your body when to sleep and when to be awake. These rhythms develop out of consistent schedules and can be difficult to change. Even the one-hour shift to Daylight Savings time can be a noticeable and sometimes difficult transition for many people,” says Dr. Subramanian.
To help adjust, Dr. Subramanian suggests you gradually transition into the time change by making small modifications in the days before March 9. Remember, if your normal bedtime during the winter months is 11 p.m., after the start of Daylight Savings Time, your body will feel like it’s only 10 p.m. at the “new” 11 p.m. bedtime. This may cause you problems falling asleep at night or waking up in the morning.
“To begin the adjustment process, start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier in the days before the change. Dim the lights in your environment in the later part of the evening. This promotes the release of melatonin, which initiates a sense of sleepiness,” says Dr. Subramanian. “In the morning, even though you may not feel like getting up and going, keeping a strict wake up time will help you adjust. Also helpful is to expose yourself to as much sunlight as possible during the early morning hours, provided we get a break in our weather.”
Proper sleep is a key element to living a healthy lifestyle. Poor sleep can lead to variety of health problems, especially if you choose to ignore it. Not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per day can result in insomnia, fragmented sleep at night and daytime fatigue and sleepiness. Poor sleep can also cause a disturbance of appetite hormones, which can then lead to weight gain and obstructive sleep apnea.
To stay alert throughout the day, try these sleep tips:
1. Maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule, even on the weekends. A fixed timetable helps your body regulate its sleep pattern and get the most out of the hours you sleep. Long naps can dramatically affect the quality of your nighttime sleep. If you have to take a nap, try limiting it to 15-20 minutes in the late morning or early afternoon.
2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime ritual prior to bedtime. Being “exhausted” is not the same as being “sleepy.” Physical exhaustion requires time to relax and unwind, which you should do prior to heading to bed for sleep.
3. Exercise regularly. Even moderate exercise can help you sleep better. Set a goal for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, three times a week or more. However, you want to make sure you finish at least three hours before bedtime. Exercise raises body temperature, which interferes with falling asleep.
4. Watch what you drink and eat before bedtime. Avoid caffeine after 5 p.m. and if you are hungry, eat small snacks, not large meals. While alcohol might help you feel sleepy in the short term, it ultimately ruins your sleep during the second half of the night by lessening how deeply you sleep, leaving you feeling less refreshed when the alarm goes off.
Mercy Health’s board-certified physicians and credentialed technologists have many years of experience in the field of sleep medicine and can diagnose and treat sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg, narcolepsy, sleepwalking and more. For more information on Mercy Health’s sleep centers and sleep medicine specialists, please visit e-mercy.com or call: Dr. Subramanian, Mercy Health – West Sleep Center (513) 389-5540 or Drs. Samir Ataya and David Beck, Mercy Health – East Sleep Center at (513) 624-1201.