Time Change: Can an Hour Really Hurt You?

Time Change: Can an Hour Really Hurt You?

We all have an internal clock, better known as the circadian rhythm, which helps regulate our sleeping and feeding patterns. Moving our internal clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue – light- for setting and resetting that rhythm. Twice a year, we have to adjust our internal clocks due to the time change and Sunday, it happened yet again. Thankfully, we moved our clocks back allowing us to gain an extra hour of sleep.

“This time change is definitely much easier on the body, but it can still cause some issues,” says Chung Pham, M.D., ASCP, Sleep Disorder and Pulmonary Specialist at Ochsner. “Most people don’t realize that light interacts with our internal clock and it serves as a cue for our bodies to wake up. Because it is now getting lighter earlier, if you are one that needs a full eight to ten hour of sleep, finding a way to block out light in your bedroom is important.”

On the flip side, Dr. Pham says there is a great health benefit to earlier light - if you take advantage of it. Mornings are usually very hurried as we rush around getting ready for work and the kids off to school. Now that daylight comes earlier, there’s more time for morning exercise and exposure to sunlight, which is extremely beneficial. “Sunlight keeps our internal clocks in sync, so it’s important to get a little direct exposure from the sun. Also, a daily exercise routine helps the heart, the brain and your overall health. Exercise can also help you sleep more soundly, so I advise my patients to take advantage of the earlier sunrise.”

While this time change brings earlier light, it also means darkness comes earlier. That change can be a concern when it comes to those who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s due to a syndrome called “sundowners.” Some dementia and Alzheimer sufferers can get very confused and agitated as the sun goes down and this can lead to multiple problems, especially roaming about the house or even outside. Dr. Pham reminds caregivers, “You need to account for the time change. Simple things like keeping the room well lit during the day even when it’s dark outside can help. You may also need to have someone check in on your loved one more often to ensure their safety.”

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