On Sunday, March 9, the time will spring forward, making it hard for many to fall back to sleep. Adjusting to the springtime loss of an hour is often more difficult than gaining one in the fall.
On Sunday, March 9, the time will spring forward, making it hard for many to fall back to sleep. Adjusting to the springtime loss of an hour is often more difficult than gaining one in the fall. This change disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, our natural sleep cycle. Dr. Jason Maxfield, Freeman board-certified sleep medicine physician, said research shows that sleeping too little can impact productivity and a person’s ability to remember and consolidate information. If left unchecked, a long-term lack of sleep can lead to implications as serious as a chronic disease, from hypertension and diabetes to depression and obesity.
Whether a lack of sleep is occasional or long-term, it always results in reduced quality of life. In recognition of Sleep Awareness Week™ March 2 - 9, Dr. Maxfield offers these tips for a seamless time transition.
Light levels play an important role in good sleep. When surrounded by light, the body produces less melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. While exposing the body to sunlight is important during the daytime, good, restful sleep requires a dark environment. Research shows using technology such as a computer or a hand-held electronic device immediately before going to bed stimulates the brain and reduces melatonin levels, making it difficult to drift off to sleep. Even the simple act of turning on a light if a person wakes in the middle of the night—perhaps to use the restroom or to get a drink—can make it difficult to quickly fall back to sleep. Dr. Maxfield recommends turning off electronic devices an hour before bedtime and lowering light-levels in the house, thus preparing the body for sleep.
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule despite the time change will also help with the transition. Dr. Maxfield said he recommends going to bed at the same time each night. This time should be late enough so a person feels tired at bedtime. Though it may be difficult, do not stray from this routine on the weekends. If a bedtime change is needed, the body will respond better if that change is made in small increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later. Likewise, it is important to wake at the same time each day. Waking without an alarm in the morning is an indicator that a person is receiving enough sleep. Those who require an alarm to wake may need to consider going to bed earlier.
If a nap is needed to help the body adjust to the time change, Dr. Maxfield said he encourages his patients to catch up on sleep during the day as opposed to sleeping later. This strategy allows his patients to improve their sleep debt, the accumulated amount of sleep that has been lost, without disrupting the body’s circadian rhythm.
For some, a lack of sleep is a problem that lingers beyond the body’s adjustment to the time change. In 2009, 35.4 percent of southwest Missouri residents reported not getting enough sleep for more than 14 of the past 30 days, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Across the US, an estimated 50 - 70 million adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder, the CDC found. Those individuals may require treatment from a sleep specialist like Dr. Maxfield at Freeman Sleep Center. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com/sleepdisorders.
About Freeman Health System
Locally owned and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System has earned a number of US News & World Report distinctions – Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri, #4 hospital in the state, and High Performing status in seven specialties. The health system includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital, and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. A not-for-profit health system, Freeman provides cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services, and women’s services and has more than 300 physicians on staff. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com or facebook.com/freemanhealthsystem or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at twitter.com/freemanceo.