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Sleep! Are You Deprived?

Connie - February 29, 2020
The odds of being sleep deprived, defined as receiving less that 6 hours of sleep a night, has increased significantly over the past 30 years. National data show that poor sleep health is a common problem with twenty percent of the US adult population reporting a lack of sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days. Sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognized as an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention and health promotion and is as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat. Good sleep promotes good health and it is for this reason that March 1 - 8, 2020 is recognized as National Sleep Awareness Week.
 
By the end of National Sleep Awareness Week we will all be thinking about sleep since March 8 is the beginning of Daylight Saving Time (DST). I personally have always given DST mixed reviews. I do like having more daylight in the evenings but do not care for the adjustment that my body seems to have to make following the time change. Seasonal disruption to our body clocks, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm, can trigger underlying health issues which for some can be serious. I can believe this and each year find it challenging to overcome the loss of the one hour in March.
 
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008 found that DST can disrupt chronobiologic rhythms and influence the duration and quality of sleep, lasting for many days after the time change. The study cited drowsiness, headaches and additional stress among the complaints given by those who stated that they were negatively affected by DST. In addition, the study found that incidences of heart attacks increased significantly for the first three days following the transition from standard time to DST. The study also found that there were fewer incidents of heart attacks following the time change from DST to Standard Time in the fall. Insufficient sleep can lead to many problems including fatigue, sadness, stress, anger, traffic accidents, work injuries, and an inability to handle work responsibilities. For those individuals who are chronically sleep deficient, DST is associated with a number of chronic diseases including diabetes, other forms of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and depression.  
 
What can you do to escape the of consequence of those sleep deprived post DST days?  Some simple steps to help you adjust your biological rhythm to DST include:
 
  1. Walk briskly or run to stimulate the release of serotonin and other types of neurotransmitters in the brain. 
  2. Get exposure to bright, natural light for a hour or two each day. Direct florescent lighting will also help if you cannot sit outside. 
  3. Eat more pineapple, bananas, oranges, oats, sweet corn, rice, tomatoes and barley to increase the body’s production of melatonin, a natural sleep aid.
  4. Eat a healthy breakfast the first thing in the morning to tell your body that it is the start of the day.
  5. Take an afternoon nap if you have the time at home or at work to do so. A short (20 - 30 min) nap can restore alertness, enhance job performance, boost memory, lift your mood, ease stress and reduce mistakes. 
  6. Set your alarm to wake up a little earlier than usual several days before the DST switch. This makes it easier to get out of bed when DST arrives.  
  7. Eat earlier in the evening in order to trick your body into thinking that it is later in the day. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol may help you fall asleep earlier.   
  8. Avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime. 
  9. Help your children adjust by putting then to bed a little bit earlier the week before DST begins.
 
So…..don’t let Daylight Saving Time get the best of you!  Take steps before March 8 to be prepared to make the adjustment. If necessary, make time for more sleep to improve the quality of your waking hours and perhaps even your health!
 
It is not too late to get a flu shot!  Stay Well!
 
References:
Buckle, Anne, Your Health and Daylight Savings Time, www.timeanddate.com, February 2020.
Insufficient Sleep is a Public Health Epidemic, American Sleep Apnea Association,                             
       www.sleephealth.org, February 2020.
Napping: Does and Don’t for Health Adults, Mayo Clinic, mayoclinic.org, February 2020.
Shifts to and From Daylight Saving Time and Incidence of Myocardial Infarction, New England Journal
        of Medicine, 359 (18), 1966-8, www.NEJM.org. November 2008.
      
           
Cornelia Pearson, RN, MN
Member, St. Andrew Lutheran Church
Franklin, TN