The Health Danger Of Daylight Saving Time

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clock-on-buildingDaylight Saving Time (DST) begins on Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 2am. But did you know that moving that innocuous-seeming hour hand forward may pose a health risk for you?

This risk is all about…sleep.

Americans & Sleep

Sleep is essential for a person’s health and well-being, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of Americans do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. For example, surveys conducted by the NSF reveal that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more.

What Does This Have To Do With DST?

Sleep problems may surface for some after clocks move forward an hour Sunday morning for Daylight Saving Time because many people have difficulty changing their body clocks, experts say.

People’s internal clocks tend to be programmed for longer than a 24-hour day and run a bit behind the time shown on clocks, said Dr. Steven Feinsilver, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

This means it’s “generally easier to stay up an hour later than to sleep an hour earlier,” Feinsilver said in a school news release.

How To Get A Better Night’s Sleep

The good news? Unless you’re dealing with a more serious sleep disorder (for which you should talk to a doctor about as soon as you can), a great night of quality sleep isn’t impossible. Here are some tips to help your internal clock stay on time, not only this Sunday, but year-round:

Wake up consistently. Give or take an hour, you should wake up every day around the same time, including weekends (sorry).

Stop using your bed as a desk/table/etc. The only things you should be doing in bed are sleeping and having sex. This habit trains your body to equate your bed with resting.

Rethink your bedroom electronics. It may not be the best idea to have a TV in your bedroom, or other types of electronics that can easily distract you from sleeping. If certain electronics must be in your room, make sure to disable any sleep-disrupting LED lights.

Prepare your body for sleep. About an hour before your bedtime, it’s a great idea to send signals to your body that you’re about to wind down. First get your end-of-day tasks out of the way, including brushing your teeth, etc. Then, take a hot bath, meditate, or listen to some soothing music.

Other more obvious tips including avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed. It’s also important to note that, while exercising can definitely help you sleep, it may prevent you from falling sleeping if you do so 2-3 hours before bed.

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