Daylight Saving Time: You'll soon have an extra hour to play in the snow.

Americans will lose an hour of sleep at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, 2013, when clocks are pushed forward for Daylight Saving Time (DST). The thought of losing an hour of sleep may seem frustrating, but with the right preparation, the shift can pass by smoothly.

We should be wary of how this shift in time can affect the body and mind in order to avoid the health consequences of not getting enough sleep.

To prepare for and cope with the time change, Dr. Douglas Kirsch, a physician in the Department of Neurology and Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, offers these tips:

  • Give yourself a jump start in adjusting to the time change. In the days leading up to the time change, try going to bed and waking up a bit earlier than usual to prepare your body for the hour you will lose. Remember that other family members, particularly children, may need some help in adjusting their schedule as well.
  • Expose yourself to light – ideally, sunlight – as soon as you wake up. Seeing light first thing after waking up can help reset your body’s clock, so try eating breakfast in front of a window or making a walk part of your morning routine.
  • Avoid stimulants that can affect wakefulness, such as caffeine, after lunch, especially a few days before and after the time change. Try not to nap during this time as well, since napping can decrease your ability to sleep at night.
  • Avoid driving if you are sleep deprived. If possible, take public transportation to work for a few days after the change. If you must drive, make sure to get a full night’s sleep each night and remain vigilant when on the road.
  • Try to avoid stress, plan for a relaxing weekend, and be sure to take your regular medications. Recent research shows that even one hour of sleep deprivation has been associated with increases in the rate of heart attacks, so take care of yourself and your sleep.
  • Use DST as an opportunity to establish an overall healthy sleep routine so you can feel your best year-round. For an ideal night’s rest, aim for eight straight quality hours of sleep, says Dr. Kirsch.

Consider these other suggestions for a great night’s sleep:

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule to help regulate the body’s sleep cycle. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time daily, even on weekends.
  • Avoid foods and drinks with caffeine, like tea, coffee, soda, and chocolate, in the late afternoon and evening as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
  • Create the perfect environment for sleep: dark, quiet, and cool. Extreme temperatures, lots of noise, and lights can create difficulties in falling asleep and staying asleep. Try using an eye mask and ear plugs to block any light or sound that may distract you from falling asleep.
  • Start a bedtime routine that includes at least 15 to 30 minutes of calm, quiet, soothing activities, such as reading or listening to peaceful music. Try not to do any work, including using your computer and studying, or watch television close to bedtime, and particularly not in your bedroom.
  • Talk or write about any thoughts, stresses, or concerns in the daytime; discussing the issue with someone, or getting it down on paper may alleviate the stress and make falling asleep easier at nighttime.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise right before bedtime. While exercise earlier in the day is good, exercising close to bedtime may make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Learn more sleep:

– Jessica M.

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