The Monday after daylight saving time takes effect doesn't have to be a heart-stressed, mad-dash, car-crash kind of a day.
Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center specialist Kelly Brown, M.D., has a list of tips people can follow to avoid the jolt to their sleep cycles and resulting fatigue when clocks spring forward Sunday, March 13.
At the top of her list is getting up early that weekend as if it's a workday.
"Try to do something in bright sunlight in the morning on the weekend before the time change," Brown said. "Bright sunlight shuts down our internal melatonin. If you get bright sunshine early in the morning, it helps pull your internal clock forward so it makes it easier for you to fall asleep earlier."
If it's a dreary day, substitute sunshine with a bright electronic device like a computer screen or venture out to a brightly lit space. Get your grocery shopping done early at the supermarket.
Another tip for easing into the time change is going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night during the days leading up to the time change.
"A lot of the time, when people suddenly go to bed an hour earlier they just can't fall asleep," Brown said. "But there are lots of ways you can adjust. You could try to go to bed an hour earlier every night for a few days. You could try to get up an hour earlier in advance of the time change, but that's hard to do. Sometimes, just gradually moving your internal clock ahead is easier than making a bigger change."
The time change is more than an inconvenience, she said, noting that studies have linked it to increased incidences of heart attacks, workplace injuries and traffic accidents.
Brown said springing forward an hour for daylight saving time is a more difficult adjustment than falling back in the autumn.
"The fall transition is much easier because most people naturally are inclined to stay up a little later or sleep in a little bit later on weekend days," she said.
If fatigue and sleep patterns persist two weeks after the time change, people may need a medical analysis. Sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, are very common, but often under-diagnosed. Effective treatments are available.
"Your general health and daytime functioning can be greatly improved with treatment," Brown said. "If you are a person who has a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep, or if you often feel tired in the daytime, you should speak with your primary care physician and consider an evaluation by a sleep specialist."
Tips to ease the daylight saving time transition:
· Stick to a workday sleep schedule on the weekend of the time change.
· Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night, beginning on the Wednesday before the March 13 time change.
· Dim lights earlier leading up to the time change and avoid bright lights in the evening, especially from smart phones, computers and TV screens.
· Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening.
· Keep the bedroom cool and dark.
· Get morning exercise in the sunlight on the weekend of the time change.
· Eat an early breakfast and dinner on the weekend before, and eat a good breakfast the Monday morning after the time change.
Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Center