Expert tips to minimize Daylight Saving's impact on your health
Every six months, a time change is imposed on nearly every state in the U.S. While Spring’s move to Daylight Saving Time is a guaranteed hour lost, Fall’s shift to Standard Time isn’t as innocuous as it seems. In the end, your body’s circadian rhythm is disrupted by a man-made convention, and that disrupts your ability to get the sleep you need to be healthy.
This sleep shift is more than just a yawn-inducing nuisance. Missed time sleeping here and there can add up to significant health problems. In fact, poor sleep habits are linked to some of the most prevalent chronic conditions that affect 60% of Americans.
How sleep problems cause health problems
When studying adults who sleep for fewer than six hours each night — currently one-third of Americans fall into this category — researchers found a 24% increase in atherosclerosis. On top of that, poor-quality sleep was an even greater risk, with a 34% increase in atherosclerosis.
People who sleep fewer than six hours a night eat 200-500 more calories in a 24-hour period. If the average adult does this daily, it can equate to a pound of weight gain every single week
Both the amount and quality of sleep contribute significantly to optimal brain function and memory. Sleep deprivation interferes with neurons’ ability to encode information, diminishing your memory capacity.
A decrease in sleep affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity, and a study has shown that restricting sleep to four hours each night for just six nights in a row cause symptoms of prediabetes.
Groggy driving becomes a significant health concern not just for the driver, but for others on the road. It’s estimated that 20% of car crashes are due to sleep-related issues, and driving while sleepy is estimated to be similar to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%.
How to minimize sleep disruptions with a time change
Preparing your body for a time change — even one where you technically “gain” an hour — is a process that begins with a healthy lifestyle and healthy habits. In fact, we have a lot to learn about sleep from some of the smallest members of our population: children. Parents throughout the US bemoan time changes regardless of which way the clock moves. Why? Because whether it’s earlier or later, it messes up their kid’s schedule, which inevitably results in lost sleep time for the parent, too. Even the extra hour in the move to Standard Time in November causes problems. The following tips are how experts recommend preparing children for the time change, and they’re exactly how adults should prepare, too.
Start early. Give yourself a few days to begin sleeping a little bit later each night. Removing even ten extra minutes to your time sleeping beginning Friday can significantly lessen the stress placed on your circadian rhythm.
Develop a routine. Just as children learn to prepare themselves for bedtime through a calming pattern of brushing teeth, reading a book, and saying goodnight to their beloved stuffed bear, adults can mentally and physically prepare themselves for a good night’s rest.
Make healthy sleep a priority. In today’s busy environment, it’s easy for sleep to be tossed aside in favor of work requirements, social engagements, and personal downtime. But the recommendations for an average adult haven’t changed. It’s still important for an adult to have between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
Put down the screens. When beginning your transition to Standard Time, designate your desired bedtime, and earmark the hour before as screen-free. Even thirty minutes is proven to improve your body’s ability to fall (and stay) asleep.
As tempting as it is to stay up late knowing you’ll get an hour Sunday morning, remember that even a little missed sleep can add up to big health consequences.
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