Don’t Lose Sleep Over Daylight Savings Time

sleep-deprivedDid you have trouble getting up this morning?  Did Sunday’s ‘spring forward’ fail to put a spring in your step? You are not alone.  Daylight saving time wreaks havoc on the millions of people because it affects our circadian rhythms, Losing that precious hour doesn’t just cause pain the next day, but temporarily causes or internal body clocks to become out of sync with the day-night cycle.

Approximately 70 million people in the United States are affected by a sleep problem. Sleep disorders cause more than just sleepiness. The lack of quality sleep can have a negative impact on your energy, emotional balance, and health.  Sleeping well is essential to your physical health and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, even minimal sleep loss can take a toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can lead to poor health, accidents, impaired job performance, and relationship stress. If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform up to your potential, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury

Yawn2Dr. Aparajitha Verma, a neurologist with the Sleep Disorders Center at the Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas;  recommends that people make sure they are well rested going in to the time change.

One way to do that is to start changing your hours before the time change. Get up an hour earlier. Retire an hour earlier.”

Great advice but how many of us take it…and of course it’s too little, too late for this year.

To whether, like me, you’re one of the 70 million with a sleep disorder or whether you’re just having trouble adjusting to the time change, here’s some tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule, going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day, including the weekends.
  • Set aside enough time for sleep. Most people need at least seven to eight hours each night in order to feel good and be productive.
  • Sleep in a quiet and dark environment and set the thermostat at a slightly cooler temperature
  • Don’t allow pets in the bed
  • Turn off your TV, smartphone, iPad, and computer a few hours before your bedtime. The type of light these screens emit can stimulate your brain, suppress the production of melatonin, and interfere with your body’s internal clock.
  • No reading, eating or watching TV in bed
  • Don’t watch the clock
  • Set a “wind down” time prior to going to bed
  • Try drinking warms teas or milk to increase your body temperature, which helps induce and sustain sleep
  • Exercise is good for sleep, but not within two hours of going to sleep

And remember, while some sleep disorders may require a visit to the doctor, you can improve many sleeping problems on your own. The first step to overcoming a sleep problem is identifying and carefully tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns using a sleep diary.

sleep diary page 1This can be a useful tool for identifying sleep disorders and sleeping problems and pinpointing both day and nighttime habits that may be contributing to your difficulties.  Your sleep diary should include:

  • what time you went to bed and woke up
  • total sleep hours and perceived quality of your sleep
  • a record of time you spent awake and what you did (“stayed in bed with eyes closed,” for example, or “got up, had a glass of milk, and meditated”)
  • types and amount of food, liquids, caffeine, or alcohol you consumed before bed, and times of consumption
  • your feelings and moods before bed ­(e.g. happiness, sadness, stress, anxiety)
  • any drugs or medications taken, including dose and time of consumption

And if none of that works, just remember we’ll all get that hour back on November 3rd.

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The Peak Time for Everything

Not enough hours in your day?  So much to do…so little time?  If you’re anything like me, these will be familiar expressions.

And in which case, you should be interested to learn that maybe, just maybe, you could pack more into each day if you did everything at the optimal time?

A growing body of research suggests that paying attention to your body clock, and its effects on energy and alertness, can help pinpoint the different times of day when it’s best to perform at specific tasks.

Most people organize their time around everything but the body’s natural rhythms.

But workday demands such as commuting, social events and kids’ schedules inevitably end up clashing with the body’s natural circadian rhythms of waking and sleeping.

And as difficult as it may be to align your schedule with your body clock, it may be worth a try, because there are significant potential health benefits.

Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to problems such as diabetes, depression, dementia and obesity.

When it comes to doing cognitive work, for example, most adults perform best in the late morning, says Dr. Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California.  As body temperature starts to rise just before awakening in the morning and continues to increase through midday, working memory, alertness and concentration gradually improve. Taking a warm morning shower can jump-start the process.

The ability to focus and concentrate typically starts to slide soon thereafter. Most people are more easily distracted from noon to 4 p.m.

Alertness tends to slump after eating a meal, and sleepiness tends to peak around 2 p.m.  But you may want to rethink taking a nap at your desk.  It turns out, somewhat surprisingly, that fatigue may boost creative powers.

For most adults, problems that require open-ended thinking are often best tackled in the evening when they are tired. According to a 2011 study when students were asked to solve a series of two types of problems, requiring either analytical or novel thinking, their performance on the second type was best when they were tired.

Mareike Wieth, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Albion College in Michigan who led the study says, “Fatigue may allow the mind to wander more freely to explore alternative solutions.”

Of course, not everyone’s body clock is the same. Morning people tend to wake up and go to sleep earlier and to be most productive early in the day. Evening people tend to wake up later, start more slowly and peak in the evening.

Communicating with friends and colleagues online has its own optimal cycles, research shows. Sending emails early in the day helps beat the inbox rush.  6 a.m. messages are most likely to be read.

Reading Twitter at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. can start your day on a cheery note. That’s when users are most likely to tweet upbeat, enthusiastic messages, and least likely to send downbeat tweets steeped in fear, distress, anger or guilt.

Other social networking is better done later in the day. If you want your tweets to be re-tweeted, post them between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when many people lack energy to share their own tweets and turn to relaying others’ instead. And posts to Facebook  at about 8 p.m. tend to get the most “likes,” after people get home from work or finish dinner.

When choosing a time of day to exercise, paying attention to your body clock can also improve results. Physical performance is usually best, and the risk of injury least, from about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Muscle strength tends to peak between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. as does lung function which is almost 18% more efficient at 5 p.m. than at midday.

Is there a best time to eat? Experts suggest limiting food consumption to hours of peak activity to keep from packing on pounds.  Perhaps we are not only what we eat, we are when we eat!