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It may be a shift of just one hour, but the switch to daylight saving time Sunday may leave you feeling groggy and discombobulated for over a week.
And it’s not just about feeling exhausted on Monday. Studies have found a lowering of test scores, an increase in accidents of all kinds — and even an increase in heart attacks — related to the annual time change, said Brant Hasler, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.
It can take time for our internal, or circadian, clocks to adjust. While some people seem to take the shift in stride with barely an extra yawn, others can be thrown off for more than a week, Hasler said.
How to ease the daylight saving transition:
- Start early. In other words, try going to bed 20 minutes earlier on Friday and Saturday nights, Dr. Alon Avidan, a professor of neurology at UCLA and director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center and director of the UCLA Neurology Clinic. “That way you’ll already be primed for the advancing clock,” he added.
- Seek the morning light. “There’s indirect evidence that morning light has major benefits on moods,” said Dr. Samer Hattar, a principal investigator at that National Institute of Mental Health, focusing on light effects on circadian rhythms, sleep, mood and learning. Beyond that, he noted, 15-20 minutes of early morning sun may be just enough to reset your internal clock.
- Avoid exposure to bright light, especially blue light, two hours before bedtime. We have special photoreceptor cells in our retinas, intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) whose only purpose is to send cues to our circadian clocks, said Hattar, who was on the team that discovered those cells in 2002. That means they are more stimulated by blue light than other colors, which is why you want to avoid using smart phones, computers and TVs close to bed time since they put out a lot of blue light.
- Grab an evening snack of banana or peanut butter. Both contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is associated with healthy sleep, according to Avidan.
- Take a 20-minute nap in the afternoon. It won’t make it harder to get to sleep at night and it may be enough to make you feel refreshed, Avidan said.
- Ditch the sunglasses. At least when you’re on your way to work. “It makes me so sad to see people driving to work with really dark sunglasses," said Hattar. "They’re missing out on all this great sunlight. They should at least wear a weaker tint.”
You may be more likely to experience symptoms if:
- You’re already sleep deprived. “You want to get a minimum of seven or eight hours of sleep on the nights preceding the time change,” said Avidan.
- You're a night owl. If you like to linger in bed longer in the morning and stay up later at night, you're more likely to be thrown by the clock’s spring ahead.
- You suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People with SAD are particularly affected by changes in the light-dark cycle. “I’m not aware of any studies that have looked at this, but for multiple reasons it would make sense that they would be particularly vulnerable to these kinds of abrupt shifts,” Hasler said.
Use these tips to help the transition a little bit easier this week!