Sleep keeps the brain working properly. It helps us control our weight, as well as our emotions. It is also plays a role in helping to heal and repair the heart and blood vessels.
Given sleep's vital importance to health, it's smart to prepare for daylight saving time, which begins at 2 a.m., Sunday, March 11, when clocks move forward an hour. Dr. Alon Avidan, a professor of neurology and director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, has these suggestions to help people adapt more quickly.
- Spend more time outdoors, especially at the beginning and end of the day. The less connected you are to natural cycles of darkness and light, the harder it is to adjust to the time change. Getting too little daylight exposure in the morning, and too much artificial light from electronic screens at night, can complicate or even delay your adjustment to an earlier bedtime.
- Teens, who have a tendency to delay sleep anyway, have even greater difficulty adjusting to time changes. The time change pushes them to an earlier bedtime when their circadian clock is telling them to be awake. Advise teens to maximize light exposure early in the morning and avoid it in the evening. And turn off TVs, computers and phones at least two hours before bedtime.
- Allow extra time to adjust. A few days before the time change, try going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier and getting up 15 to 20 minutes earlier. Be especially vigilant about avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bedtime, and refrain from exercise in the late afternoon or early evening. Try to exercise earlier in the day.