Preventing the Spring Forward Slump
If you haven’t already, you should probably start going to bed a little earlier to prepare yourself to spring forward for the upcoming daylight saving time change, when we all lose an hour of sleep. This year, it takes place on Sunday, March 10, at 2 a.m.
Lee K. Brown, MD, senior vice chair of clinical affairs in the Department of Internal Medicine, and medical director of sleep medicine for UNM Health System, says the time change is hard on everyone, and he recommends slowing down.
As a proponent of permanent daylight savings, he’s a firm believer that it’s the transition that causes health problems for as long as two weeks after the leap forward.
“There are data that are fairly consistent with demonstrating that when the daylight saving shift occurs, for the next day and next week or two, there are adverse consequences,” Brown says.
The time change can leave us feeling groggy, like we’re all thumbs. Brown says car accidents, accidents involving alcohol, slips and falls, and heart attacks increase on the Monday after the springtime time change, and the effects can last for a week or two.
In general, young people need more sleep, and the time change doesn’t help. Anyone who spends time with adolescents will notice that they may be sleepier than usual in the days after the time change, Brown says.
Biologically, teens tend to be night owls who need to wake up later, but busy school and sports schedules require waking up early, preventing them from getting all the sleep they need. This sleep pattern is called the delayed sleep-wake phase syndrome, and it’s even more pronounced after the time change, Brown says.
The spring forward time change isn’t all bad. For example, people with some forms of depression find that the longer days and shorter nights improve their mood.
The extra hour in the evening also gives us some daylight for exercising, whether it’s going for a jog, walking the dog or spending time in the garden.
It’s not easy to muddle through the transition. Brown offers the following tips for resting easy:
- Go to sleep a little earlier each night in the week leading up to the time change.
- Lay off beverages with alcohol, and don’t drink and drive. You’ll already be feeling tired from the change, and the alcohol’s effects will intensify.
- Give yourself extra time to accomplish tasks, and be extra careful, because sleepiness impairs performance and judgment, as well as the moral decisions people make, according to research on sleep deprivation.
- Coffee or other caffeine-containing beverages help. Brown drinks coffee, because he works long hours, and suggests it as a way to alleviate the grogginess you’ll likely feel on March 11. But be aware of how late in the day you consume caffeine if you find you’re sensitive to it. As with everything in life, moderation is important.
- Melatonin in small doses such as 0.5 or 1.0 mg can help you fall asleep earlier if you take it 90 minutes before bedtime. Note that recent research has determined that over-the-counter melatonin supplements, which are not regulated, often do not contain the amount of melatonin on the label – or any melatonin at all. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends obtaining melatonin that is United States Pharmacopeial (USP) Convention Verified.
What about naps?
“I highly support naps,” Brown says. “A power nap can be of great benefit.”
If you can find a quiet spot, a 20- to 30-minute nap just might make losing an hour of sleep a little easier.