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Get Your Body Ready For Daylight Saving Time

March 7, 2011

Most people enjoy the extra hour of sunlight that comes with Daylight Saving Time but a Baylor College of Medicine sleep expert warns that it is not necessarily the best thing for our sleep cycle.

This is especially true for people who are already sleep deprived and for small children, said Dr. Philip Alapat, assistant professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at BCM and medical director of the BCM Sleep Center.

Losing an hour March 13

This year, Daylight Saving Time starts March 13 at 2 a.m., at which point clocks will jump forward to 3 a.m.

“In the spring when we lose an hour, essentially what happens is people who are already sleep deprived are going to be an hour more so, and it will exacerbate any problems they’re already having,” Alapat said.

The more significant problem is with children, he said. Parents shouldn’t expect to put their children to bed at the same clock time with no disruptions.

Preparing for the change

“The reasonable thing for parents to do is to be quite regimented a couple of days prior to the time change and even try to move bedtime up gradually,” he said.

For example, if your child’s normal bedtime is 9 p.m., move it up in half-hour increments the two days before Daylight Saving Time begins.

And even after the time change, don’t expect your child to fall asleep right away, Alapat warns. It may take a little extra time, and they may experience some grumpiness, but before long they will back on track.

Enjoy the benefits

Adults should take the same advice, Alapat said, and may also benefit from increasing their early morning sunlight exposure, if possible. While exercise is always an important part of the daily routine, it should be avoided two to three hours before bedtime, especially in the days following the switch to Daylight Saving.

Lack of sleep can lead to decreased performance at work or in school, memory and cognitive impairment and a general decrease in the quality of life. It also increases the risk of occupational and automobile injuries.

“Most individuals have inherent circadian rhythms based on intrinsic and extrinsic factors, and societal standards including Daylight Saving Time often interfere with these rhythms,” Alapat said. But, he added, with a few adjustments, most everyone can take advantage of the benefits that come with Daylight Saving Time.

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