When we fall back in autumn, our body's circadian rhythm – what determines when we are sleepy and when we are alert – must reset itself
Atlanta, GA (Vocus) November 4, 2010
Most Americans will benefit from the extra hour of sleep gained when time “falls back” this weekend. An estimated 70 million Americans suffer from some form of a sleep disorder. While the extra hour of rest may seem like a luxury, how does a sudden switch in time affect those seeking a healthy night’s sleep?
“When we fall back in autumn, our body’s circadian rhythm – what determines when we are sleepy and when we are alert – must reset itself,” said Dr. Russell Rosenberg, CEO of the Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic and Vice Chair of the National Sleep Foundation.
An upset in the body’s internal clock results in an adjustment period, usually lasting around one day. Americans will also experience less exposure to one of the body’s most important internal regulators- natural light.
Shorter days means longer nights and less exposure to sunlight, and natural light plays an important role in the healthy sleep process. Most know that light signals to the brain it is time to wake up. Light also helps regulate the body’s internal sleep/wake cycle. To keep the body on track, “take a few moments to step outside and expose yourself to the early morning sunlight,” said Dr. Rosenberg, “The sunlight at dawn tends to suppress melatonin, so by getting out each morning and walking around, you can help strengthen your sleep-wake clock.”
A few more tips for healthy sleep:
-Sleep in a dark, cool room. TVs and laptops should be off; the smallest light can interrupt and decrease the quality of your sleep.
-Avoid naps if you have insomnia.
-Don’t hit the snooze button hit the floor. Use the time change to your benefit and set a more consistent schedule for yourself, even on weekends.
-If you notice the time change has disrupted your sleep for more than a few weeks, visit a doctor or a certified sleep specialist.
For more information on sleep disorders, tips, or treatment options, visit the Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic at http://www.atlantasleep.com.