"Spring Forward" this Weekend; Don't Fall Behind

March 11, 2017

This Sunday, we “spring forward” an hour for Daylight Saving Time. One less hour can be hard on your health if you’re not prepared.

Dr. Lirong Zhu, the medical director of Mercy Sleep Center - Rolla,  says now is the time to analyze your biological clock. The neurologist and sleep medicine specialist, who also serves as president-elect of the Missouri Sleep Society, sums up some easy solutions if you get behind on sleep next week.

1. LIGHTING

“Waking up on Sunday, your body is behind schedule,” Dr. Zhu said. “To get to bed at a decent time Sunday night, turn your lights off sooner. That's because brightness sends signals through your nerves to the brain, which will delay melatonin secretion and keep you up later.”

Melatonin is a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake schedules.

Dr. Zhu recommends gradually brightening lights earlier in the morning to acclimate to the earlier start to the day; exposure to bright light in the morning will advance melatonin secretion and help you wake up earlier.

Dr. Zhu says the number of early-morning accidents spike the week after the time change. She recommends against self medication to adjust your biological clock; and it’s also important to check with your doctor before turning to any supplements.

2. VITAMIN D

“People forget how important natural vitamin D is to your physical and mental health,” Dr. Zhu said. “When the days and seasons change, make it a priority to step outside during lunch or even a short break to get exposure by sunlight."

Research shows that a lack of vitamin D can increase your risk of developing a cold, depression or even seasonal affective disorder (known as SAD).

3-5. ALCOHOL, NAPS & EXERCISE

A common misconception is that drinking alcohol will ensure a more peaceful slumber. “Studies show that if you drink alcohol late at night, you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night, even if you fall asleep quickly,” Dr. Zhu said. “For most people, you end up feeling much worse in the morning.”

And don’t even think about taking a nap.

“Unless it’s earlier in the day,” Dr. Zhu added, “because it can seriously derail your sleep pattern. If you must do it, limit yourself to 30 minutes.”

And you may want to get your workout in earlier. “Exercising close to bedtime, you get the adrenaline pumping and your heart rate spikes, making it harder to wind down for the day. Working out in the morning can even help with insomnia, and you’ll be more productive in the day.”

6-7. ENVIRONMENT & MEAL 

So what’s the best recipe for good sleep?

“A cool, dark and quiet bedroom,” Dr. Zhu said. “And don’t go to bed hungry or full – eat just enough to make it through the night comfortably.”

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