daylight savingsWhen you moved your clocks forward this weekend, you lost an hour of sleep that’s probably left you feeling in need of another cup of coffee. But losing that hour of sleep isn’t the only reason you’re dragging today. With daylight savings time essentially shifting an hour of light from the morning to the evening, you’ve also thrown your internal clock or circadian rhythm out of whack, which can profoundly affect the quality of your sleep. (If you’re like me, you probably don’t need anything working against you in this department.)

How does poor quality sleep affect you?

When you don’t get good quality sleep (you don’t go to sleep right away, toss and turn, or wake up during the night), it can result in your feeling a big foggy the next day. That dulling of your mental acuity, in turn, can result in your tripping over a curb at the more minor end of the scale or forgetting to take your medications or even causing a car accident at the more troubling end.

Poor quality sleep can also directly impact your health, causing you to gain weight, lowering your resistance to infection and even putting undue stress on your heart. In fact, according to a 2008 study published by researchers from the Karolinska Instituet in Sweden, heart attack rates spike by about five percent in the days after the March time change and subsequently drop in the fall when the clocks get turned back.

What can you do about it?

You’ve heard all of the advice like don’t drink caffeine or alcohol before bed, remove the TV from your bedroom and get plenty of exercise. Of course, continue doing those things. However, to adjust your internal clock to the time change, there are a few other steps you should be taking. Be sure to expose yourself to light during your waking hours as much as possible and conversely as little as possible during those hours you should be asleep. (That means don’t use electronics at bedtime and use nightlights, instead of bright overhead lights, should you have to get up in the middle of the night). It’s also important to stick to a routine, going to bed at approximately the same time (within 20 minutes) and getting up at the same time. To determine what are the right times for you, practice going to bed when you are naturally sleepy and getting up when you feel alert. Over time, you’ll figure out your own natural rhythm.

Share how you adjust to the daylight savings time.