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Tips to Prepare for Daylight Savings Time
The health risks of losing one hour of sleep may be worse than you thought. By Melissa Romero
Comments () | Published March 9, 2012
Daylight Saving Time occurs at 2 AM this Sunday. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user blue2likeyou.

Daylight savings time is always bittersweet. On the one hand, leaving work when it’s still light out gives our souls a much-needed boost and means we’re one step closer to summer. On the other hand, we lose an hour of glorious sleep.

For some, that one hour lost just means we’ll feel a little groggy come Monday. But for the many Washingtonians who work ten-plus-hour days, less time for sleep means more than just feeling drowsy, says Dr. Vivek Jain, medical director for the George Washington University Hospital Center for Sleep Disorders.

“Even one hour of lost sleep can take a toll on one’s health and many individuals experience grogginess, difficulty focusing, and irritability,” he says.

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Even worse, research has shown that more car accidents and heart attacks occur on the days following daylight savings time. One study that analyzed traffic for nine years found an 8 percent increase in traffic accidents; another said there’s a 10 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack on the days following the time change.

This year, daylight savings time takes place at 2 AM on Sunday, March 11. To avoid any potential consequences of sleep deprivation this time around, Jain offers the following tips to ensure a healthy transition:

Go to bed early and wake up early this weekend.
To set your internal clock, get exposure to bright outdoor or indoor light in the morning. It may also help to rise 30 minutes earlier on Saturday and Sunday.

Keep the bedroom separate.
Jain says the bedroom should only serve for sleep. Don’t work on your laptop or eat in bed. Instead, listen to music or do some mindless reading in dim lighting. Your body will soon associate the bed with sleeping, making it easier to fall asleep every night.

Exercise.
If you’re an after-work exerciser, make sure you do it between 5 and 8 PM. Your body will need to be in a state of rest, not high energy, in order to transition to sleep.

Take a hot shower, then get into a cool bed.
This process “naturally mimics day and night, and may help guide you to sleep,” Jain explains.

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