Newswise — The return to daylight saving time each spring affects the sleep patterns of millions of Americans and can wreak havoc on the many people already affected by sleep problems, but a few simple sleep habits can make all the difference when we spring forward March 13.
To better prepare ourselves for daylight saving time, Houston Methodist sleep expert Aparajitha Verma, M.D., says people need to make sure they are well rested before the time change.
“One way to do that is to start changing your sleep habits days before the time change. You can get up an hour earlier and go to sleep an hour earlier,” Verma said. “You can also take a nap in the afternoon on Sunday if you need it, but not within a few hours of your regular bedtime. Napping too close to bedtime can disrupt nighttime sleep.”
Circadian rhythms, or our internal body clocks, are the patterns of repeated activity associated with the environmental cycles of day and night. Verma says people who have trouble sleeping may have an internal clock that has become out of sync with the day-night cycle.
“If you’re well rested and your circadian rhythm is working with your schedule, some people don’t even need an alarm clock to get up in the morning.”
However, Verma says if you cannot fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down, if you have excessive daytime sleepiness, or if you’re still sleeping for seven or more hours and waking up tired, you may have a more serious sleeping disorder. She recommends people with these symptoms consider an overnight sleep study at a center accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine or ask their doctor about a take-home test option, which is now available for certain patients who qualify.
“Daylight saving time gives us the opportunity, at least twice a year, to practice good sleep habits we should try to use year-round,” Verma said.
Verma suggests the following tips for a good night’s sleep, before and after the time change:
- Sleep in a quiet, dark environment and set the thermostat at a slightly cooler temperature;
- Don’t allow pets in the bed;
- No reading, eating or watching TV in bed;
- Don’t watch the clock;
- Set a “wind down” time prior to going to bed;
- Don’t take over-the-counter sleep aids and avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime, as these can disrupt sleep.
- Try drinking warm tea or milk to increase your body temperature, which helps induce and sustain sleep;
- Exercise is good for sleep, but not within two hours of going to sleep.
Houston Methodist is one of only nine centers in Houston accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Our team of specialists includes doctors who are board certified in sleep medicine by the American Board of Medical Specialties and sleep technicians who are registered by the Board of Polysomnographic Technicians. For more information on Houston Methodist Sleep Services, visit https://www.houstonmethodist.org/neurology/sleep-disorders/.