Time change can be hazardous to your health

March 23, 2016

Kentuckians, already the second most sleep-deprived Americans, may be distressed to learn that losing an hour of sleep on Sunday, March 13 to Daylight Savings Time can be hazardous to your health. However, you can take steps to prepare for the time change.

MADISONVILLE, KY. (March 7, 2016) Losing an hour of sleep on Sunday, March 13 to Daylight Savings Time is not only inconvenient, but may be hazardous to your health. For Kentuckians, already the second most sleep-deprived Americans, that’s not good news.

A Finnish study showed that the rate of ischemic stroke was 8 percent higher during the first two days after a time change is made. “It is not entirely clear the reason for this, but it does seem clear that until the body’s internal clock recovers from the time change there is at least a slight increase in stroke risk,” said John Mori, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at Baptist Health Madisonville’s sleep center. Other studies have shown a rise in motor vehicle accidents right after the time change.

To prepare for, and recover from, the time change, Dr. Mori recommends that you go to sleep 15 to 20 minutes earlier for each of the two nights before the time change. (In this case, Thursday, March 10 and Friday, March 11.)

“It is particularly important to practice good sleep hygiene, for example by minimizing alcohol or caffeine in the evening for the several days leading up to the time change,” he added.  “This way you are sleeping well going in to the time change and are better able to handle some amount of sleep loss the night the clocks change.”

Sleepy Kentuckians

If you’re feeling groggy, you’re not alone. A recent CDC study found that Kentuckians are the second-most sleep deprived Americans (behind those from Hawaii).

The study, which analyzed data from the 2014 Behavioral Rick Factor Surveillance System, found that more than one-third of Americans sleep less than seven hours in a 24-hour period. For Kentuckians, that number rises to nearly 40 percent.

Multiple factors play a role in Kentucky’s ranking as a sleep-deprived state, said Dr. Mori. “Smoking, unhealthy eating and adverse effects of prescription drugs on sleep are probably at least a few of the factors affecting sleep,” he said.

Getting enough sleep – defined as more than seven hours a night for adults – is important for many reasons. “Sleep is particularly important in babies and young children for the development of neurons (cells of the brain),” Dr. Mori said. “Sleep in adults is important for the consolidation of memories.  Sleep might be a particularly important time to repair or restore damage to tissues of the body.”

Not getting enough sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and makes you more vulnerable to illness.

If you’ve fallen into poor sleep habits – such as staying up to watch late-night TV shows or surfing the Internet when you have to be at work at 7 a.m. – getting back on track will take a little work.

“If you have more time to sleep, but are struggling to sleep through the night, it can be helpful to increase the time spent in bed by 15 minutes every four nights or so,” Dr. Mori said. Over a few weeks, this will train your mind and body to sleep more.

To increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, Dr. Mori says:

 Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

  • Lay-off stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime. While alcohol can help you go to sleep, it tends to wake you up later.

  • Eliminate distractions: toss out the pets, put light-blocking curtains on the windows and use a white noise machine.

  • Get a little sunshine in your life every day. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy wake-sleep schedule. (And don’t turn on a light when you get up to go to the bathroom. Instead, install a night light.)

  • Be calm. Put your problems and concerns to rest, so you can rest too.

  • Use your bed for sleeping – not as a desk, a place to watch TV, surf the Internet or read.

Baptist Sleep Center Madisonville is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The Sleep Center offers a comfortable four-bedroom sleep lab as well as home testing options. All Sleep Lab staff is registered by the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists. John Mori, MD, is board-certified in sleep medicine and offers clinic appointments for ages 2 and up on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. No specialty referral is needed. Call 270.825.5918 to make an appointment or speak with the sleep center staff.