Archive for Friday, October 30, 2009

Time change will require a bit of adjustment

October 30, 2009

That extra hour we gain Sunday when we set our clocks back at 2 a.m. to end Daylight Saving Time will be a nice treat, especially after celebrating Halloween.

But, beware. The time change will play tricks with your mind.

Dr. Suzanne Stevens, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Kansas University Medical Center, said any shift in time — even just 60 minutes — throws our circadian rhythm awry.

“The cues that tell our brain whether to be awake or asleep change when the time changes, so anytime the time of light exposure or the sunrise changes, it’s hard on our circadian system to adjust to that,” she said.

It typically takes about two weeks for our bodies to adjust, Stevens said.

After two weeks, if people are still feeling sleepy, sad or less energetic than normal, they should seek professional help.

To help make the time adjustment easier, Stevens provided these tips:

• Get bright light exposure when waking.

She suggested opening the curtains and letting the sunshine in or going for a walk. If it’s still dark outside, turn on a lot of lights in the house. Light boxes also can be used, but typically aren’t necessary.

“Any sort of light exposure helps reset your brain,” she said.

• Keep a consistent wake-up time.

“The wake-up time is more important than the bedtime because that is one of the biggest cues to the circadian rhythm in your brain. If you can maintain a consistent waking time, the whole sleep cycle can fall into place very easily,” Stevens said.

• Exercise.

• Try to keep mealtimes consistent.

• Consuming a small dose of caffeine, such as a cup of coffee, in the morning can help.

“If you are tired, then you need to use that extra hour judiciously. But, it does happen on a Saturday night which makes it hard,” she said. “Of course, the children will see it as an extra hour of darkness for trick-or-treating.”

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