Many Americans will lose an hour of sleep on March 14, the first day of daylight-saving time, when clocks are set ahead one hour at 2 a.m. local standard time—making it harder to wake up, causing difficulty in staying alert and increasing the chance of sleepy-driving car crashes.
Ronald D. Chervin, M.D., says Americans can prepare for the daylight-saving time switch. Chervin says it can be as simple as going to sleep and waking up earlier by 15 minute intervals in the days leading up to Sunday's change.
"Being prepared is important, especially if you need to be alert that day for any reason, particularly driving a car. Even one hour of sleep loss can affect some people," says Chervin, a professor of neurology at the University of Michigan and director of U-M's Sleep Disorders Center. In the days immediately following the spring switch each year, more people have serious crashes, probably because of the sleep loss and adjustments that everyone's biological clock must make to the new schedule.
The first day of daylight-saving time is not the only time when the amount of sleep should be of concern, however. Chervin says most adults should get about eight to 8.5 hours of sleep a night, but many get less and are chronically sleep deprived. Those patterns can start in childhood.
"We generally spend one-third of life sleeping—or at least we should," Chervin says. "We're learning more and more about how that one-third has critical impact on the other two-thirds."
It's hard to find any aspect of health untouched by sleep, Chervin says. The brain of a person who does not get enough sleep—in quality and in quantity—is unable to operate efficiently. Health, emotions, memory and more are affected. Furthermore, sleep disorders also may increase risks of obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks.
U-M faculty engage in research about all aspects of sleep. The following are examples of current clinical research projects.
1. Relationships between difficulty breathing at night and changes in brain waves that may result in daytime
2. Sleep and and daytime thinking ability in children who have had cleft palates repaired
3. Impact of sleep apnea on pregnant mothers and their newborn babies
4. Sleep apnea and serotonin, an important neurotransmitter, in patients with Parkinson's disease
5. Sleep, seizures, and brain metabolism in critically ill newborn babies
6. Testing of a new telephone-based approach to therapy for chronic insomnia
Healthy Sleep Advice from the National Sleep Foundation
• Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
• Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
• Create an environment conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
• Reduce or eliminate your intake of caffiene, nicotine and alcohol.
U-M's Sleep Disorders Center