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Don’t lose sleep over earlier daylight saving time

POSTED: March 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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It’s a lot earlier than in previous years, so make sure your clocks are ready to spring forward this weekend, as daylight saving time begins on Sunday.

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know; you’re not alone. Luis Diaz, 20, of Gainesville said he was unaware of this weekend’s time change that will have most of the continental U.S. moving clocks ahead an hour at 2 a.m. Courtney Reise, 19, of Buford said she didn’t know about the time change either, but feels it’s no longer needed.

"I don’t view it as a necessary thing for our society to have. I think the time should just stay the same at all times. I don’t understand why it does that," she said.

The basic idea behind the practice, originally conceived by Benjamin Franklin and in use in the U.S. since World War I, is to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.

Kelley Adams, 29, and Trampus Freize, 21, both of Gainesville, said they like having a longer day.

"During the spring and summer we like to have more daylight, so I like that they push it up," Adams said.

Freize said he’ll likely lose sleep this weekend because the time change "messes everything up."

Losing that hour of sleep isn’t just an inconvenience. A local sleep expert says not only can losing sleep cause physical affects, it may take days for people to recover.

"The adjustment varies from person to person, but it can take anywhere from one to two days to up to a week if everything is otherwise normal," Alan Lankford Ph.D., said of the time change. "If you find that you cannot adjust or you have not adjusted after a week ... it’s an indicator that you may have some undiagnosed sleep disorder."

Clarence Dover, 63, of Gainesville agrees that it takes him a few days to get used to the time change. "Most of the time when time changes, it messes you up a little bit, but you get over it in a few days," he said.

Lankford, the director of the Sleep Disorder Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, said the time change is a double whammy for many.

"The time change — springing forward in the spring — actually can have an impact on our sleep in a number of ways, but there are two primary ways that it has an affect," he said. "The first, of course, is when the alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. and you typically get up to go to work or whatever you’re doing, for your body it actually feels like it’s 5 a.m. Then, in the evening when you try to go to bed at 11 p.m., your brain and your body think it’s 10 p.m."

Difficulty in going to sleep earlier is called sleep onset insomnia, Lankford said. He said that losing sleep one or two days is something to which most people can adjust quickly. But continuing sleep loss turns into sleep deprivation syndrome and that’s when physical symptoms show up, he said.

"If you need eight hours and you’re only getting seven and you do that because of springing forward in the spring, then over a period of several days you build up a sleep debt," he said. "And that has an impact on your alertness, your cognitive functioning, your memory, your attention."

Reise said she has felt physical effects of losing sleep during the time change. "It does affect my sleeping schedule," she said. "It throws me off mentally for my day."

In a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of adults reported getting insufficient rest or sleep every day in the past month. The study was released just before National Sleep Awareness Week, an education campaign the National Sleep Foundation promotes each year in conjunction with daylight saving time.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that most people need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Lankford explained that the number of hours a person needs to sleep each night is "hard wired" and unchangeable. But resetting the times we go to sleep and wake up, both guided by our internal clock or circadian rhythm, is possible, Lankford said.

Lankford’s tips for adjusting to daylight saving time include:

Keep a regular schedule, setting regular times when you go to sleep and wake up. You can slowly adjust your bedtime over a period of days by trying to go to bed another 15 minutes earlier each night, building up to the hour shifted by daylight saving time.

When the alarm goes off every morning, resist the urge to oversleep and get up. Exposure to bright light, such as morning sunlight, can help your internal clock adjust to a new time.

There are some things you should avoid during the adjustment period, including taking naps during the day and drinking alcohol just before bed. Also, while caffeine is OK to help you wake up in the morning, it’s best to avoid it in the evening because it stays in your system four to five hours.

Take advantage of the extra daylight hours by exercising more. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help you sleep, but exercising too close to bedtime can actually keep you up at night.

If you still lose sleep while you’re trying to adjust to daylight saving time, or any change in your sleep schedule, Lankford said you can and should make up the sleep debt.

It’s a myth that you can’t make up lost sleep, he explained; many people do it every weekend by sleeping late. Lankford said you don’t make up missed sleep hour for hour, but sleeping in on an occasional Saturday morning allows your brain to recharge through deeper, better quality sleep.

When can you expect to get that lost hour back? Daylight saving time ends Nov. 2 when we move our clocks back an hour and return to standard time.



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