By Eugena Brooks
As we applaud the end of winter, we are reminded of some traditional lore, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” One more thing you can also “set your watch by” this month — you lose an hour of sleep for Daylight Savings Time (DST). Since March is such a changeable month in and of itself, you can understand how your body’s internal clock can also unsynchronized synchrony
Clock Changes: Why am I so tired all the time?
Yes, we can see warm spring-like temperatures or late-season snowstorms, and the approaching of spring is like light at the end of, for some people, the dreary, frigid tunnel called winter. While it doesn’t always happen, the weather near the end of March is sometimes milder than when it starts. Primarily, this is due to the beginning of a much-anticipated spring that officially starts with the vernal equinox around the 20th of March.
In 1942 (without a clue as to future ramifications) the Federal mandate for DST was initiated. And so, we began to spring forward into March madness losing an hour of sleep that we would not regain until we fall back during the Autumnal equinox six months later.
Why am I reminding us of this little fact in history? Because we now know you can’t make up lost sleep.
As for people with sleep apnea, DST is a small disaster. While just one hour of lost sleep is hardly the same as sleep deprivation, what’s not considered is the shift of the body’s circadian rhythm. Because our sleep-wake cycles are synchronized with the light-dark cycles of the planet, any shift away from what the body and brain are aligned with is going to be felt for a few days until the rhythms can become realigned.
Everybody sings, “Let the Sunshine In”
The additional exposure to sunlight delays the brain’s production of melatonin, as well. Melatonin is the hormone that promotes sleep, and without it, insomnia can result. It’s no wonder that following the spring time change, moods can run afoul, digestive systems might experience interruptions, and focus and concentration can take a hit. So, the time has come to figure out how to be proactive about making a bad situation better.
If your nightly bedtime schedule is all over the map:
You may wish to rethink those habits entirely. When bedtimes and rise times fluctuate wildly, your habits have likely already reinforced an ongoing pattern of sleep deprivation. Why not use DST as a chance to change that? Start by picking (and sticking to) a regular bedtime and rise time schedule. At the very least, you will eventually reset your rhythms, over time to a steady and regular pattern when you know you will be achieving a proper amount of sleep (at least 7 hours, but ideally, around 8 hours is best, night after night).
For best results in any situation, practice good sleep hygiene
Good sleep hygiene can make your sleeping life a lot easier and healthier. It includes a few simple practices.
- Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet.
- Put away all handheld electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
- Avoid heavy meals at dinnertime and don’t eat right before bed.
- Late afternoon caffeine and alcohol as a “nightcap” should be avoided, as both compromise one’s ability to fall asleep (caffeine) or to stay asleep (alcohol).
- Nicotine use can also lead to both problems, so skip the bedtime smoke.
- Use LED-free nightlights in your bathroom so you can avoid turning on lights in darkness, should you need to use the bathroom in the early hours.
At the end of the day, sleep is important to good health.
For those of us that suffer with sleep apnea good sleep means a healthier more productive life. The more you prioritize sleep as important and necessary to good overall health, the easier it will be to survive the upcoming time change.