George Washington University Hospital Sleep Experts Offer Tips To Help You Spring Forward With Ease

Washington, DC – (March 7) This weekend it’s time to “spring forward” and change the clocks as Daylight Saving time takes place at 2 a.m. eastern standard time on Sunday, March 10. While the lost hour of sleep may cause some people to feel sluggish on Sunday and Monday, most will quickly adjust. Unfortunately, for a significant number of Americans, losing just one hour of sleep and having to wake up when the timing of your biological has not yet adjusted can affect performance and safety.

“Many people mistakenly assume that the only consequence of sleep deprivation is a feeling of drowsiness,” said Vivek Jain, MD, Medical Director for the George Washington University Hospital Center for Sleep Disorders and Assistant Professor of Medicine. “Even one hour of lost sleep can take a toll on one’s health and many individuals experience grogginess, difficulty focusing, irritability and more seriously, drowsy driving. Statistically in the days following Daylight Saving time, there are more vehicular accidents due to the lack of alertness.”

Leading up to this Sunday’s time change, Dr. Jain recommends going to sleep earlier on Saturday and Sunday night, and to get exposure to bright outdoor or indoor light in the morning to acclimate the body’s clock to the new time. Dr. Jain also reminds people that Daylight Saving time is not the only time that it’s important to focus on sleep hygiene, and that prolonged sleep problems have been associated with high blood pressure, weight gain and trouble with memory and learning.

“At some point, most people experience some difficulty sleeping. Unfortunately, many people do not talk with their doctors because they don't think there is help," said Samuel Potolicchio, MD, Associate Medical Director for the George Washington University Hospital Center for Sleep Disorders and Professor of Neurology. “It’s important to know that difficulty sleeping can be a sign of a sleep, medical or psychiatric disorder that with proper treatment can improve.”

The number of hours needed for sleep depends on individual factors and can vary from seven to nine hours. Many Americans’ standard work schedules now average nine to 10 hours, and the day’s challenges and stresses may mean that falling asleep quickly may not come easy. “The 24-7 culture that we live in makes it difficult to transition from waking to sleeping hours, since electronic devices and cell phones are always available to us,” said Dr. Potolicchio.

To help people get a good night’s sleep this weekend and throughout the year, Dr. Jain offers tips on proper sleep hygiene.

• Consistency is key – Stick to a regular bed time, setting your internal clock helps your body auto-start the sleep process accordingly.

• Bedroom boundaries – Make sure the bedroom is only for going to sleep. It shouldn’t be a place to watch TV, do work, surf the internet or eat. That way your body knows that when you get into bed, it’s time to go to sleep.

• Work up a sweat – Exercise can give your body something to rest from and help you stay asleep at night. To allow enough wind-down time, it’s best to complete exercise at least two to three hours before going to bed.

• Set the stage – Take a hot shower then get into a cool bed. The drop in your body’s temperature after taking a hot shower and entering a cooler room is a process that naturally mimics day and night, and may help guide you to sleep.

• Put your thoughts to bed – Jot down your to-do list for the next day and keep it near the bed to avoid racing thoughts that can prevent you from falling and staying asleep.

• Relax - Avoid activities such as going online or watching TV that will hold your interest and keep you engaged. Listening to music or reading something that you find mindless in a dimly lit area may help you feel sleepy.

If sleep doesn’t come naturally or there is excessive sleepiness during the day despite a good sleep hygiene regimen, speak with your physician to determine the cause of sleep loss and regain control over your ability to be well-rested. George Washington University Hospital’s Sleep Center conducts day and night studies for the diagnosis and treatment of a multitude of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, periodic limb movements and restless leg syndrome.

To learn more contact the Sleep Disorder Center at 202-741-3430.

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