Silence that Alarm…Spring Forward and Sleep Well

Mike Saridakis, DO

Mike Saridakis, DO

When we moved the clocks forward, we gained an hour of daylight, but many people felt shortchanged by losing an hour of sleep. Memory, mood and more can easily be affected by this subtle shift. Dr. Mike Saridakis offers some advice on securing a good night’s sleep that can help you wake up refreshed and informed.

The Sunday morning after we had to “spring” forward, I struggled to rouse my teenagers out of bed to get ready for church. The simple act of changing the clock by one hour can throw off one’s internal clock, which can lead to daytime fatigue. With 40 percent of Americans reportedly sleep deprived, the time change may be enough to push them over the edge.

Short episodes of sleep deprivation are nothing to worry about, but chronic sleep loss can contribute to health problems like weight gain, high blood pressure and a decrease in the immune system. Even learning, memory and mood are affected. Finally, there are many safety concerns from lack of sleep, such as motor vehicle and on-the-job accidents.

How much sleep do I generally need?

Generally speaking, humans require about eight hours of sleep per night. Some people require as little as six hours per night, provided they do not exhibit daytime drowsiness. Others need up to 10 hours of sleep per night in order to feel well rested. It is also important to note that the need for sleep does not decrease with age, although the ability to stay asleep all night does. Thus, many people require naps as they get older. Good sleep hygiene and habits are important year round. Even simple changes to weekly bedtimes, such as staying up more than two hours later than usual on weekends – along with sleeping in – can throw off one's biologic clock. A simple shift in sleep of one hour can take 24-48 hours to adjust in most and even a week in others.

How do I know when I’m sleep deprived?

Early signs of sleep deprivation include irritability, moodiness, and disinhibition. If the sleep deprivation is not addressed, one may develop apathy, slurred sleep, and flattened emotional responses, impaired memory, and an inability to multitask or be creative.

How do I prevent sleep deprivation?

Maintain a good bedtime routine. Avoid staying up beyond 2 extra hours on weekends. Be disciplined – go to bed on time!

Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages.

Although alcohol can help some individuals fall asleep, it often leads to poor quality of sleep. Caffeinated beverages, especially beyond the late afternoon, can lead to restlessness and poor sleep.

Control stress.

Stress is the number one reason for short-term sleep deprivation. Take the time to try and solve the stressors of life and seek professional help if it persists beyond two weeks.

Create a positive sleep environment.

A quiet, dark room at a comfortable temperature is ideal. Minimize interruptions by family and electronic devices.

Address physical/health ailments.

Conditions like arthritis and back pain can prevent a comfortable night of sleep. Hormonal changes like PMS and menopause can lead to hot flashes and restlessness at night. Prescribed and over-the-counter medications can also affect sleep. Thus, verify the necessity of these medications and whether a change can be made.

When do I need to see a doctor?

If you’ve attempted these suggestions and sleep problems persist beyond two weeks, a consultation with your primary care physician would be appropriate.

Remember, never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep!

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