Springing forward with care

Daylight saving time (DST) kicks in this year at 2 am on Sunday, March 10. And while it may seem great to gain an extra hour of daylight in the evening, the stats tell us this 1-hour adjustment can cause some big issues when it comes to our mental and physical wellbeing, mainly due to poor quality of sleep that comes with a disturbance to our circadian rhythms.

Shortly after we spring forward each year, there is an increase in heart attacks and strokes, as well as hospital admissions. There is also evidence that daylight saving time can intensify mental health conditions such as depression. Incredibly, there is even evidence that there are more car crashes, especially in the morning, for weeks after the time adjustment!

It’s truly amazing how just a one-hour shift in time can have so many potentially serious consequences. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to help minimize how DST affects your health and well-being. The following suggestions come from Kelsie Roberge, RST, polysomnographer at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital’s Sleep Lab

Keep your sleep clock in check
Do not try to stay up later or sleep longer in the morning the day the time change goes into effect. Instead, in the weeks before, you can try adjusting your bedtime by 15-minute increments slowly to ease your body into the longer/shorter days. You can also avoid the use of electronics an hour before bed and keep the room you sleep in cool, dark, and quiet to promote healthy sleep. 

Get in the sun while it's out
It's especially important during the dark winter months to get as much exposure to sunlight as you can. If it's too cold to get outside just opening the curtains and sitting in the sun will do the trick. The sunshine helps the brain to produce serotonin and acclimates your body's internal clock.  

Avoid taking naps
As tempting as it is some days, long naps can negatively impact the quality of sleep you get during the night. If you cannot resist the urge to rest during the day, try to do it early in the afternoon and for no more than 30 minutes.

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