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Feature Article Managing the Time Change: Some People Suffer More

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Waking up might be a bit more difficult with the daylight saving time change, as our body clocks will not have adjusted yet. The first day of the time change is usually when most people feel the full effect of losing an hour of sleep.

But for some, the impacts of the time change can be more profound. Three groups in particular suffer the most: those who already aren’t getting enough sleep, people with sleep disorders and those who consider themselves “night owls.”

“The time change throws us off our regular sleep schedule which is the key to getting a good night’s sleep,” said Mark Reploeg, MD, medical director of the Samaritan Sleep Disorders Program and sleep medicine specialist with The Corvallis Clinic.

There are studies that link the time change to higher incidents of heart attacks, accidents and sleep problems. A 2012 study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that springing forward was associated with a 10 percent increase in the risk of heart attacks in the two days following. And traffic accidents caused by tired drivers spike after the time change each spring.

“Feeling tired can affect our sense of well-being, productivity and our ability to concentrate,” said Dr. Reploeg said.

He noted that going to bed sooner and getting up an hour early is hardest for people whose body clocks are set to stay up late, including teenagers.

By far the largest group affected by the time change is the nearly one-quarter of American adults who already aren’t getting enough sleep.

“We live in a world that is sleep-deprived,” said Dr. Reploeg.

As we adjust to the time change, it helps to practice good sleep hygiene habits, Reploeg noted. These include avoiding things such as caffeine, alcohol, electronic devices close to bedtime, and pets sleeping in your bed — all of these factors can disrupt a good night’s sleep.

“Try to establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine,” Dr. Reploeg said. He recommends exercise as another way to help our bodies adjust. A short walk outdoors can be energizing and keep us from feeling drowsy. Opening shades and brightening lights in the morning can help to wake up, and dimming lights in the evening sends our brains a signal that it’s time for bed.

And next spring, if you want to ease into the spring time change, don’t get caught off-guard: set a reminder on your calendar a week ahead and try adjusting your bedtime about 10 minutes earlier each night. The fall time change where we “gain” an hour usually isn’t as troublesome for most people.

If sleep issues consistently affect your daily life, ask your health care provider for a referral to a sleep specialist. Sleep medicine services are available in Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon, Newport and Lincoln City.