It’s Time to Fall Back … And Into a Few Days of Sleepless Nights

Time ChangeWhen Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend, many will be affected by the change, even though we’re “supposedly” getting an extra hour.

So why does this make our sleep so out-of-whack? Simple – we’ve gotten used to a certain pattern and any sudden shift is going to make our bodies, for lack of a better phrase, freak out. Our internal clock will be out of sync and mismatched with our current day-night cycle. How well we adapt depends on several things.

Generally, losing an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than gaining an hour in the fall. It may seem simple, but a good rule of thumb is that it takes an additional day to adjust for each hour of time change. If you regularly get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and go to bed at 11 p.m., try going to bed at 10 p.m. for the next several nights and by Sunday morning, when the time actually does change, your body will be naturally adjusted to the new system.

Sleep is like food for the brain. When you sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur, and skipping sleep – whether intentional or unintentional – can be harmful. Not only can it affect the way you think and the way you look, it can be deadly, too. If you’re behind the wheel of a car and you fall asleep, you can risk injury or death to yourself and others. Sleepiness makes it hard to get along with others, it makes you moody and it affects the way you work and complete projects.

A brain that is hungry for sleep will get it, even when you don’t expect it. More than 100,000 car crashes every year occur because the driver is tired.

Sleep is vital to your well-being. It’s as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. For teens, there are several important facts you need to keep in mind:

  • Teens’ sleep patterns naturally tend to shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking – meaning its natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11 p.m.
  • Teens need 9-10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Some can get by on 8-9 hours, but on average, teens do need at least 9 hours of sleep. Studies have found that only 15% of teens reported sleeping over 8 hours per night on school nights.
  • Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week: staying up late and getting up late on weekends, which can affect their biological clocks
  • Teens that don’t get enough sleep can suffer from treatable sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea

What can you do to help? As parents, you want the best for your kids, no matter what. As teens, you want to do the best you can to please your parents, your teachers and your friends. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Make your sleeping area a haven. Keep it cool, quiet and dark. If you need to, get eyeshades or blackout curtains. In the mornings, get into natural light as soon as possible to get your body in the “wake up” mode.
  2. Make sleep a priority. If you find yourself dozing off, getting irritable, not paying attention when you should – keep a sleep diary for a week or two and make adjustments where you can so you can get the sleep you need.
  3. Naps can help pick you up and help you work more efficiently. Plan them right.
  4. Avoid taking pills to make you sleep or replace sleep.
  5. Don’t consume caffeine close to bed time (at least 3 hours prior to your bed time).
  6. Establish sleeping and waking times and stick to them as much as possible.
  7. Don’t eat, drink or exercise within 2-3 hours of your bedtime.
  8. Try to avoid doing heavy work right before bedtime, like homework or physical activities (chores). Also plan to leave electronics alone at least an hour before bed. This will give your brain time to shut down and get in the mood to sleep.
  9. Establish a routine for your pre bedtime. Your body will naturally understand that when you take certain steps, and do certain things, it will get in the mood to sleep and your sleep will be deeper and more satisfying.
  10. Keep a to-do list. This will help if you have a busy brain that is always thinking of the things you have to do. Make your to do list 2-3 hours before bedtime and don’t keep it by your bed so you won’t think of it last thing before you go to sleep or first thing when you wake up.

While there may be some tired or groggy people hitting the streets on Monday morning, you don’t have to be one of them! Try some of the suggestions listed here and let me know how they’re working out for you.

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