Spring Ahead Without Car Accidents and Misery - Sleep Tips for DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

03/10/2017 06:22 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2017

“Spring ahead, Fall Back and check your smoke detectors!” If only the saturation of the soundbites were that simple… When we set our clocks ahead this Saturday night it marks one of the many signs that the long, cold, dark winter. But as wonderful as the extended daylight feels, we all groan knowing what that Monday morning is going to feel like with less sleep. The majority of us who are already sleep deprived will feel that loss of this hour of sleep more than ever.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, Americans report an average loss of about 26 minutes of sleep, depending on your own personal health, sleep habits, and lifestyle. In addition to the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on our health, the Monday after Daylight Saving Time in the Spring is also the day with the highest number of traffic accidents according to AAA and National Highway Transportation Board statistics.

Daylight Saving Time affects our internal clock or circadian rhythm similar to airplane travel, and a disrupted sleep cycle can do more than just make you feel sleepy. Springing forward can also have a serious impact on your mood and your heart health and blood pressure. But perhaps most serious are those driving statistics – drowsy driving is deadly even if you aren’t the drowsy one! I’m not suggesting that you stay home from work Monday morning (unless you can pull it off!) but there are a few things that you can do to ease the transition and stay alert enough to avoid the drowsy drivers around you.

Sometimes the thought of losing more sleep is enough to make you lose sleep, and one tool that can help reduce the awakening caused by obsession is simple monitoring. Use Daylight Saving as an occasion to start a sleep tracking regimen. I have worked with various monitoring and sleep tracking systems in my career and I am working with SleepScore Labs currently which offers the most advanced technology you can use without a prescription. The S+ by ResMed is a clinical grade device that sits on your nightstand and uses radar to measure ten different values to deliver a diagnostic score. The app on your phone which provides your SleepScore each morning observes and assesses patterns which are run through an advice engine. You don’t just get a score, you get tips on how to improve your sleep based on your individual data. I find once my patients start monitoring their sleep, they think less about falling asleep and over time their sleep improves.

Sleep tips are never one size fits all so you need something that will address your unique sleeping patterns. However, there are a few things we can all do that will make the Daylight Saving transition easier and Monday morning safer on the road, so I’m sharing the following guide:

Dr. Breus’ Daylight Saving Time Survival Guide:

  • Starting a few days before the time change, go to bed 15 minutes earlier, then 30 min earlier, then 45 min earlier.
  • Limit consumption of caffeine after 2 p.m.
  • Try not to drink alcohol the night before and after daylight savings time.
  • Adjust your workout schedule to end exercise a minimum of 3 hours before bedtime
  • Monitor your sleep with a sophisticated tracking device before, thru and after daylight savings to identify patterns and your unique sleep problems. I recommend the tracker I work with here: www.sleepscorelabs.com

Think about those sunny days ahead and enjoying some daylight after the work day as the weather gets warmer – then think how much greater it will feel after a good night’s sleep…

P.S. Testing your smoke detectors is another checkpoint to do when we change our clocks in the Spring and Fall. Patterns produce safety!

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