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Keep your schedule to prevent time-change sleepiness
Nearly everyone looks forward to “falling back” and claiming that extra hour of sleep in autumn. But taking advantage of that extra rest and keeping the benefit can be tough. Time changes in the fall and spring inevitably alter people’s schedules, and it can take the body up to a week or more to adjust. Until then, falling asleep and waking up later can be harder. And, losing an hour in spring can cause even more problems.
In some cases, the time shift can be dangerous. If your sleep cycle is out of whack, driving can be a bad idea. A National Institutes of Health study showed fatal traffic accidents increase the Monday after both time changes. A similar study also reported a 10 percent increase in heart attacks following time shifts, particularly the spring time change Sundays and Mondays.
For your health and safety, here are some tips for dealing with the time change:
1. Keep to your normal schedule
Whether it’s fall or spring, try to manage your schedule accordingly. In autumn, keep things as close to normal as possible. If you usually wake at 8 a.m., do it the morning of the time change, if you can (although the clock says 9 a.m.). Additonally, be consistent with eating, social, bed and exercise times, too. Raising your body’s core temperature can make it harder to fall asleep, so avoid heavy workouts within four hours of bedtime.
2. Make gradual shifts as needed
In autumn, changing your sleep schedule isn’t necessary. Fall asleep at your normal time, and your body will feel the same when you wake. Roughly two weeks before springing forward, though, go to bed and wake up 10 minutes to 15 minutes earlier daily. This helps your body slowly adjust.
3. No long naps
Shutting your eyes mid-day is tempting, especially if you’re feeling sluggish. But it could backfire as longer daytime naps could make it harder for you to get a full night’s sleep. Instead, step into the sun to stimulate your body and help retrain your inner clock.
4. Have a nighttime ritual
Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids. You don’t need to do things in a certain order, but you should make a habit of slowing your body down. Dim your lights, take a warm – not hot – shower, put your phone, computer or tablet away, and turn off the television. Also, avoid screen time close to bedtime. Electronics’ high-intensity light hinders melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleepiness. It stimulates your brain and makes sleep difficult the same way sunlight does.
No matter what, work the hour change into your schedule. The closer you stick to your normal routine, the faster your body will adjust to the time change.