I love it when the flowers start blooming, birds are singing, it begins to get warmer, and we have more daylight. I love everything about spring… except for losing an hour of sleep! As if people with fibromyalgia don't have enough trouble sleeping, on Sunday, March 10, at 2 a.m., here comes Daylight Saving Time (DST) in most parts of the U.S.
I remember all too well how the time change affects fibromyalgia. Mornings are often the most challenging times of the day. Maybe you barely got any sleep, so you're completely exhausted when your alarm goes off. Or perhaps your pain and stiffness are worse, and it takes a few hours to get your day started.
I don't know about you, but for me pushing the clock ahead an hour makes me sleepy, tired and a little cranky for several days if I don't take steps to prevent it.
This problem can last a week or two for some people. But there are several ways to make the transition to DST a little easier, including preparing for the change gradually before it takes effect.
"The change in time is only an hour, but it's the change in light that makes a difference in how people feel," explained Ralph Downey III, the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Calif., and a spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
"An hour shift doesn't seem like a whole lot, but it's as if you're behind the curve an hour a day until you get adjusted," Downey said. "It can influence your mood, your ability to get things done, your ability to concentrate," he said. Also, people are more prone to accidents.
Armed with the following knowledge, perhaps you can avoid much of the fatigue and other symptoms you've experienced in the past.
Downey suggested easing yourself into the change by spreading it over several days before DST starts. By going to sleep 15 minutes earlier and waking up 15 minutes earlier each day for the four days before DST starts, you will adjust your internal clock gradually and won't have the adverse effects from the time change, he advised.
Another expert suggested that getting more exposure to morning sunlight is the best way to reset your internal clock.
Most people can quickly adapt to a one-hour change, said Dr. Jose Loredo, the director of the Sleep Medicine Center at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. "However, some people are sensitive to the time change, especially people who have insomnia. The time change can really throw them off and cause significant problems with their sleep," he said.
The key to adjusting to DST is exposure to sunlight, Loredo said. "We can change our internal clock backward or forward depending on the exposure to light," he said. "The change isn't immediate, it takes some time," he added.
Loredo agreed that gradually adjusting your sleep schedule will help regulate your internal clock.
"But the best way to advance your clock is being exposed to sunlight in the morning. Bright sunlight, not inside but outdoors without sunglasses, for an hour to two a day will advance your internal clock by an hour," Loredo said.
Also, a small dose of melatonin can help, Loredo said. "To advance your internal clock faster, you can take melatonin (the lowest dose possible, whatever you get in the store – cut it in half) at five or six p.m. It's not a sleeping pill, but it helps you fall asleep."
To help ensure a smoother transition to the new time, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that you begin to adjust your sleep schedule a few days before the beginning of Daylight Saving Time.
6 Steps To Help You Spring Forward:
- Go to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier each night for a few nights before the time change to give your body a chance to adjust.
- Begin to adjust the timing of other daily routines that are "time cues" for your body. For example, start eating dinner a little earlier each night.
- On Saturday night, set your clocks ahead one hour in the early evening. Then go to sleep at your usual bedtime.
- Try to go outside for some early morning sunlight on Sunday. The bright light will help set your "body clock," which regulates sleep and alertness.
- Be careful when driving or operating machinery if you feel drowsy on Sunday.
- Stick to your bedtime on Sunday night to get plenty of sleep before the workweek begins on Monday.
With a little bit of preparation, you can minimize the effect of Daylight Saving Time, enabling you to enjoy life a little more.
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