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Are you ready to “fall back” an hour this weekend? Even though the clocks change by only an hour during Daylight Saving Time, the effects can be noticeable. Dr. Van Nguyen – a primary care physician at the new Ochsner Community Health Brees Family Center in New Orleans East – breaks down how the time change can impact your health along with tips to help adjust!
How does losing or gaining an hour of sleep affect my internal clock?
We all have an internal clock, better known as the circadian rhythm. That rhythm is the 24-hour internal clock that helps regulate our sleeping and feeding patterns. Twice a year, we have to adjust our internal clocks due to the time changes known as Daylight Saving Time.
Losing or gaining an hour of sleep can confuse your internal clock. Our bodies tell us when to go to sleep and when to wake up every day through an internal clock. This is extremely important for getting the rest we need, keeping our energy levels optimal, and being as functional as we can be in our everyday lives. So when Daylight Saving Time comes along, that internal clock keeps working the same way while our lives are essentially undergoing a forced adjustment. If possible, avoid taking naps immediately after the time shift so that you are tired and ready to sleep when bedtime comes around.
During Daylight Saving Time, how will the sunrises affect my sleep?
Daylight is actually the most important cue for setting our internal clock at the beginning of the day. Getting about 15-30 minutes of sunlight exposure in the early morning can help us sync our clock to the time change faster. Another way to sync your body to the new time a little bit faster is to spend some time exercising in the morning. This will expose your body to light as well as increase your internal core temperature which will help wake your body up.
Can the time change affect my brain function?
You could possibly experience symptoms similar to jet lag following the time change. Some people are sensitive to even small shifts in their schedule and they may experience mental fogginess, decreased attention span and even some mild mood disturbances such as irritability. Be especially vigilant while driving. Driving while sleep-deprived or sleepy can be dangerous.
What are some ways I can adjust to the time change?
For most of us, after a small time shift, our bodies will naturally adjust our internal clocks by 15 or 30 minutes per day. This means that we’ll be back on track in just a few days. To help this process along, continue your usual daytime routines including wake-up times, mealtimes, and exercise and you will be fine. This will help your body begin to use these cues to adjust your internal clock to the time change.
Designed to deliver primary and specialty care to underserved communities with the goal of promoting health equity for all, the Ochsner Community Health Brees Family Center is now open and serving patients at 5950 Bullard Avenue in New Orleans East. For more information visit ochsner.org/communityhealthnola.