Getting Enough ZZZs

Raise your hand if you think changing to Daylight Savings Time makes for a week of drowsy mornings and sluggish afternoons.  Do you agree, but you’re too tired to raise your hand?  Me too.  Losing an hour of sleep is one of my least favorite things to do.  Apparently there is strong evidence-based reasoning behind our cranky coffee-infused protest. Not only is springing forward intensely annoying, it appears to pose a significant public health risk.

According to a 1996 article in the New England Journal of Medicine the number of traffic accidents increases by 8% on the Monday immediately following the change to DST. The author concluded that “It is likely that the effects are due to sleep loss rather than a nonspecific disruption in circadian rhythm, since gaining an additional hour of sleep at the fall time shift seems to decrease the risk of accidents.” Moreover, a new study released by the American Academy of Neurology found an 8% increase in incidents of ischemic stroke on the Monday and Tuesday following the time change. This rose to a whopping 20% for those over the age of 65. In view of the risk, why do we continue with something that has lost traction as a means of saving energy (it doesn’t) and promoting more physical activity (it doesn’t)? Pick A Time, Legislators. Stick With It All Year.

Until there is enough evidence to end our mandated biannual clock tampering, the sleep-deprived among us must find a way to cope with this annual rite of spring.  The University of California San Francisco Medical Center has some recommendations for a better night’s sleep here.  The Nemours Foundation has good advice for teens on their website.  And for the groggy little ones in your life, explore the general information and tips at  Briefly, the experts advise us to:

  1. Make sure the room is dark.  Blinds or lined curtains are a great investment.  Aluminum foil isn’t a pretty window treatment, but it’s effective at blocking light.
  2. Turn off the electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime. Say goodnight to Facebook and put away the phone. DVR the late night talk shows or watch streaming video from the network websites. After all, tomorrow is another day.
  3. Soundproof your environment. An electric fan or white noise machine can mask other sounds. Earplugs work well for some people.  My preference is the wax kind that completely cover the outer ear canal instead of the spongy ones that tend to fall out during the night.
  4. Try deep breathing.  Inhale slowly all the way into your belly and release the breath to a count of 4.  Use the exhale to release the tension in your body.  Sink into the sleep state.  I’m yawning already…

Finally, New York Magazine suggests keeping at least one foot outside the covers to fall asleep faster. The cooler air signals the body to sleep. Hey. It can’t hurt. Besides, it will be one less foot to haul out of bed in the morning.

Image Credit: Salvador Dali.  The Persistence of Memory.  Museum of Modern Art.

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