Archive for Thursday, April 4, 2002

s time to spring forward

April 4, 2002


It's almost time for the big clock change, both inner and literal.

Come 2 a.m. Sunday, daylight-saving time officially kicks in. (Remember, it's "spring forward" Â from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. Â meaning we lose an hour.)

The main purpose of daylight-saving time  first conceived by Benjamin Franklin  is to make better use of daylight.

A poll conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated that most Americans liked daylight-saving time because there's more light in the evenings and they can get more done. But some people don't appreciate the inconvenience of adjusting to a new sleep schedule or changing many clocks.

For most, it's merely a nuisance. But others who have sleep disorders find the transition difficult. And even those who don't suffer from these problems can feel a bit thrown off by the time change.

That's where Dr. L. Elaine Kennedy comes in. She practices internal medicine  with a special interest in sleep medicine  at Reed Medical Group, 404 Maine.

Switching over to daylight-saving time usually doesn't have a big effect on people's functioning. Still, there are steps you can take to lessen its effects and ease the transition.

"It's very helpful to get yourself exposed to bright sunlight within one-half hour of waking up, because that helps to reset our circadian rhythm," she said.

The light-dark cycle is the primary cue for the circadian rhythm that humans and many animals have, and exposure to sunlight a half-hour after awakening helps keep that rhythm on track.

Temperature also plays an important role in sleep, which normally starts during the falling phase of the body's core-temperature rhythm.

"It's helpful to take a hot bath and increase your core temperature a couple of degrees (before bedtime)," Kennedy said. "Then when you go to bed, your temperature is falling, which enables you to fall asleep easier."

If daylight-saving time has thrown a wrench into your body clock and sleep schedule, it's a good idea to make your sleep environment as conducive to snoozing as possible.

Decrease the noise and light as much as possible in the bedroom, and lower the temperature slightly as you're getting ready to slip under the covers.

Other tips: Avoid consuming caffeine after 10 a.m. (java junkies may find this impossible), and watch your alcohol intake.

"Alcohol may promote sleep onset, but it has detrimental effects on the quality of sleep," Kennedy said.

Exercise helps promote good sleep, but it's best to get that workout in at least a few hours before bedtime. Otherwise, your body might be too perked up to slip off to slumberland.

Some people, Kennedy said, take a dose of the hormone melatonin to help them get a good night's rest. But she would advise against it.

"Sleep is initiated when the melatonin level in the body rises. So if you take melatonin, you might be able to manipulate the system," she said. "It's not medically recommended, though. It's better to have good 'sleep hygiene.'"

Put Kennedy in the category of those Americans who like daylight-saving time.

"I think it's great. You can go outside (in the evening) and get your yard work done," she said.

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