03/10/2011 02:55 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Daylight Saving Time: How to Recoup That Stolen Hour

It's National Sleep Awareness Week, and while I talk about sleep all the time, it's great to have a week focused on an activity that just doesn't get the respect it deserves.

The truth is that people aren't nearly as aware of the importance of sleep as they should be. In fact, the CDC recently released a report that says that more than a third of Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night. This might not seem like such a frightening statistic, but the long-term effects of sleep deprivation include severe health risks, like diabetes and heart disease. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to 10 hours of sleep a night for adults, and this report suggests that those who get less sleep are more likely to doze off during the day, even while driving. Now that's scary.

It's hard enough to make sure we get at least seven hours of sleep every night, but it's even more difficult to make sure those hours are good, quality sleep. In honor of Sleep Awareness Week, take a look at some of the questions that the CDC. asked:

  • During the past 30 days, how many days did you feel you did not get enough rest or sleep?

  • During the past 30 days, how many days did you find yourself unintentionally falling asleep during the day?
  • During the past 30 days, have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a brief moment, while driving?
  • Are you surprised by your answers? You shouldn't be. In the C.D.C. report, 35 percent of the adults studied reported getting less than seven hours of sleep per night!

    This sleep deprived situation isn't going to be helped by the start of daylight savings time this Sunday, March 13. The time change in the spring is always more difficult than in the fall, since we spring forward and end up losing an hour of our day. Since that time change officially happens at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, the hour we lose is an hour of sleep.

    Since the time change coincides with National Sleep Awareness Week, here are some tips to help you be more aware of the loss of that valuable hour of sleep and better adjust to it:

    • Starting about four or five days before the change, stick to this schedule: On Thursday, get in bed 15 minutes earlier than your normal bedtime; on Friday, 30 minutes earlier than normal; and on Saturday night, try to get into bed 45 minutes earlier than your normal bedtime.

  • Beginning on the Tuesday before the time change, stop drinking caffeine at 1:30 p.m. to help with the earlier bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol during the weekend of the time change.
  • Keep up your exercise during the week for better sleep quality.
  • Make sure you get sunlight in the morning the day of the time change to help reset your body clock.
  • Be aware of your bedtime routine as the clock springs forward. Otherwise, you might fall back asleep at the wrong time.

    Sweet dreams,

    Michael J. Breus, Ph.D.
    The Sleep Doctor™

    Everything you do, you do better with a good night's sleep™