The fall time change offers opportunity to adjust sleep patterns
On Sunday morning, the clocks will fall back to mark the official end of daylight savings time (DST). Northwestern Medicine® sleep experts warn that the one hour time shift can be disruptive to sleep patterns, but that it also offers an excellent opportunity to evaluate and improve sleep patterns.
"As people reset their clocks, they should also take this opportunity to reset their sleep habits in order to avoid possible health consequences," said Hrayr P. Attarian, MD, neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Sleep problems are widespread and on the rise, yet many people dismiss the issue and don't realize the consequences that can result. Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, trouble with memory and learning and a higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure."
Even with the one hour gain, Attarian recommends keeping the same bedtime to avoid feeling sleep deprived on Monday. Practicing proper sleep habits is key to getting a good night's sleep not only at the time change, but throughout the year. Attarian recommends the following tips:
Consistency is key – Go to bed when sleepy and stick to a set rise time. Not sleeping in may help consolidate sleep at night.
Bedroom boundaries – Make sure the bedroom is only for going to sleep. It should not be a place to watch TV, do work, surf the internet or eat. Dedicating the space for sleep helps the body to know it's time to sleep when entering bed.
Work up a sweat – Exercise can give the body something to rest from and helps a person stay asleep at night. To allow enough wind-down time, it's best to complete exercise at least three to four hours before going to bed.
Set the stage – Take a hot shower then get into a cool bed. The drop in body temperature after taking a hot shower and entering a cooler room is a process that naturally mimics day and night, and may help guide sleep.
Put thoughts to bed – Before going to bed, jot down a to-do list for the next day and put it aside to feel organized and avoid racing thoughts that may prevent sleep.
Power down the brain – When getting ready for bed, avoid activities such as going online or watching TV that will keep the mind engaged. Listening to music or reading something mindless in a dimly lit area may help bring sleepiness.
"If sleep doesn't come naturally or you experience excessive sleepiness during the day despite a good sleep regimen, speak with your physician," said Attarian. "Sleep is paramount to good health and it's crucial to regain control over your ability to be well-rested."
For people with problems sleeping, a sleep study may be required. Northwestern Memorial's Sleep Disorders Center conducts day and night studies for the diagnosis and treatment of a multitude of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, nocturnal behaviors such as sleep walking, talking and eating in sleep, acting out dreams, and narcolepsy. Patients also have the option of completing diagnostic studies at home using ambulatory monitoring technology. To learn more, visit the Sleep Disorders Center website.
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