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How daylight saving time can impact sleep, and how to fix it

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Daylight saving time began at 2 a.m. Sunday, and, for some Hoosiers, that means disrupted sleep or sleep deprivation.

Dr. Susan Holec, a family medicine doctor with Ascension St. Vincent, says sleep is an essential part of health and a lot of things can happen to your body if you don’t get enough of it.

“There’s drowsiness, lack of concentration and focus, elevated cortisol stress hormone levels and blood pressure, blood sugar can be elevated,” Holec said. “It really has much more of an impact than what most people realize.”

The Monday after the time change can be a hard time for our bodies, Holec says. Research shows that on the Monday after the change, heart attacks increase by 24%, the number of strokes goes up 8%, and depression rises by 11%.

“Mondays are normally in a time of the week where people will have elevated cortisol or stress hormone levels to begin with,” Holec said. “So, in those people that are especially predisposed, there’s a higher risk of heart attack stroke, car accidents, accidents at the work place.”

A lack of sleep causes elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, according to Holec. An increase in cortisol can cause elevated blood pressure, inflammation, immune imbalance, and other problems. It also sets the body up for clots and plaques to break off from the blood vessels of the heart.

Holec has some ideas on steps people can take before daylight saving time to try and offset the negative effects of the time change, including:

  • Start going to sleep about an hour earlier in the days before DST begins.
  • Wake up 20 minutes earlier each day in the days preceding DST.
  • Make it a goal to sleep seven to 9 hours a night.
  • Use a bright light or full-spectrum lightbulb in your bathroom, kitchen, and workspace to mimic daylight exposure.

“It’s a matter of just kind of prepping yourself, if you’re going to be getting up a little bit earlier in the future, start incrementally going to sleep a little bit earlier, waking up a little bit earlier, so it’s not such a big shift for your body,” Holec said. “Also, you want to limit caffeine intake to no more than within about six hours of going to bed limit large meals, (and) alcohol intake before bedtime.”

Establishing a good sleep-wake routine year-round is vitally important to getting good sleep, according to Holec. One way to do this is to avoid blue light — light emitted from electronics or LED bulbs — late at night.

“The blue light will inhibit something called melatonin from being formed, and that’s a hormone that helps us to go to sleep and help us to feel tired,” Holec said. “The older we get, we have less melatonin produced. So, decrease exposure to the LED lights and the blue lights. You can wear amber glasses and get an app on your phone to limit blue light emissions.”

Holec also suggests taking 20-minute naps, incorporating exercise into your morning routine, and exposing yourself to daylight or whole-spectrum light for at least a half hour during the day.

There are several supplements that can be beneficial for those struggling to sleep, Holec says.

“Melatonin is beneficial and it ranges from anywhere from one milligram to 20,” Holec said. “Chamomile tea is good. There’s a supplement called GABA, which gives a sense of calm. Also, passionflower. There’s some really nice supplements out there.”

Holec says magnesium, phosphatidyl serine, and NAC (N acetyl cysteine) supplements may also be helpful.