Daylight saving time is little more than an annoyance to many people. But for some of us, the "spring forward" aspect -- the loss of one hour's sleep -- creates a national case of jet lag.
And it's not just a bad case of grogginess, or the feeling of cobwebs in the brain, said Dr. Alon Avidan, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center: There are concerns that tinkering with one's sleep schedule can cause greater risk of car accidents -- or even cardiac events.
"Significant sleepiness can have health consequences," Avidan said. "Anytime there's a loss of sleep, or a sudden shift in the circadian clock, the health implication is quite significant."
Here are 13 tips for making the transition a lot smoother -- and safer:
1) Go to sleep already! Avidan suggests prepping for the loss of an hour's sleep by hitting the hay 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night for a week or so leading up to the clock change. (It's already too late for most of us to do that, so tuck this info away for next year.) At the very least, go to sleep early tonight so you can wake up rested in the morning. Same goes for Sunday night, and the next few nights.
2) Start to wind down an hour or two before you go to bed. Dim the lights. Take a warm bath. Relax.
3) No caffeine and no alcohol during this wind-down period. And no guzzling water that will make you take bathroom breaks all night long. Remember: We're trying to gear up for some shuteye.
4) That means turning off the TV. And the iPad. And the iPhone. And the laptop. And anything else that will be overly stimulating. Avidan recommends curling up in bed and reading a few pages of a boring book or magazine. "Just don't make it 'The Da Vinci Code' or anything by Dan Brown," he said, because then you'll be up all night turning pages.
5) Ideally, you want to get 7.5 to 8 hours sleep. Try your best to make that happen over the next few days, and every day for that matter.
6) Don't oversleep. Now, that might seem to contradict the steps above. But Avidan wants you to go to sleep early and get up early. That will make it easier for you to go to sleep early on Sunday night, and start the work week well-rested.
7) When you wake up in the morning over the next few days, try to get immediate sun exposure, Avidan said. "That helps you rapidly synchronize to the new time change."
8) Some people who have trouble sleeping find that a light dose of melatonin helps. Avidan said it may have some merit, but much of it is anecdotal. "No one has really studied this carefully," he said. Like No. 1, it may be too late to experiment with melatonin during this time change, which might be just as well: Bring this up during your next doctor's appointment and see what your physician recommends.
9) For the next 48 to 72 hours, leave plenty of time to get to your destination. There are going to be some folks out there who didn't get the memo about daylight saving time. Those folks are going to race around like madmen/women to make up for the lost time. And unfortunately, some of them will be behind a wheel. Leaving early will ensure you can put your focus on defensive driving and arriving safely.
10) If you have an appointment on Sunday or Monday, you might want to touch base with the person you are meeting, and double check that the meeting time still works. (And make sure the person you're meeting knows about the time change!)
11) Don't be a hero. If you are one of those rare people who really struggles with the time change, avoid getting behind the wheel of a car until you feel up for it. "If you feel really sleepy, let someone else do the driving," Avidan said. "Reduce your risk."
12) Don't be lazy. Many of us are tied to devices that will automatically reflect the time change, said John Lowe, the nation's timekeeper. But all that automation could give us a false sense of security that all the clocks in our lives have been updated, said Lowe, who heads the time and frequency services group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency responsible for, among other things, maintaining the official time in the United States.
But if you use the clock on the coffee machine or microwave, for example, to time your morning departure, you could get caught short.
Solution? Walk through every room of the house this weekend, do a visual sweep of clocks, and change 'em as needed.
13) Don't forget the clock in the car!
And if at any time today, or any day, you find yourself wondering, "Hey, what time is it anyway?" Lowe suggests checking Time.Gov for the most accurate time check of all.
What do you do to avoid the jet lag feeling that comes with daylight saving time? Tweet me @renelynch
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