If you’re like most of us, you’re still getting used to the time change that went into effect the morning of March 8. Fatigue, loss of sleep and other issues may have you dragging as you head to work or school. Losing an hour may seem like nothing, but in fact, your body and your brain may not be seeing eye to eye when it comes to that lost hour.
Your body’s master clock, which includes the wake/sleep cycle, is regulated by the brain through a cluster of cells near the optic nerves, which dictates your body’s sleeping and waking cues. Since the nerves are located near the eyes, they are affected by light, cueing the body that darkness = sleep. According to Harvard Medical School, most of us are programmed by our internal clocks to sleep between midnight and dawn, but as anyone with a new baby or a graveyard shift job knows, sleep may occur at hours outside the norm.
According to National Public Radio, anything that disrupts the body’s natural sleep/wake cycles — jobs, babies, a long flight overseas or all-night cram sessions can all take an unexpected toll on your health. Spikes in blood pressure, raging hunger hormones and out of whack blood sugar can all occur when you lose sleep — even an hour! Sleep loss has also been linked to chronic diseases, including depression, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Sleep insufficiency has also been linked to some cancers, increased mortality and generally reduced quality of life and productivity.
Beyond just health issues, loss of sleep can have some odd side effects, impacting emotions and behaviors, according to the Wall Street Journal. With just an hour of sleep lost, one study found that people were less likely to pick up on emotional cues from their partners. Impulse and self-control were also negatively affected. The strangest side effect, though, centered on web surfing habits. After the change to Daylight Savings Time, people were more likely to engage in “cyberloafing,” aimlessly surfing the Internet and losing productivity.
A good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to keep your body healthy. So, even if you’re just feeling lethargic from the time change, there are some steps you can take to get your body’s internal clock ticking along in sync with Daylight Savings Time.
How can we maximize the sleep we get?
They call this “sleep hygiene” because it involves developing healthy sleep habits. Here is what you should know to get you back in sync:
- Go to bed at the same time each night
- Have a bedtime “ritual” you find relaxing
- Don’t eat a large meal right before bed
- Avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol or nicotine just before sleep
- Exercise regularly; daily, if possible
- Make sure your sleep environment puts you at ease
- Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon
- Try not to use screens (phones, computers, tablets) just before bed, as they provide stimulation
Do you have a foolproof method to beating the drag caused by DST? Share your tips with us!