Time change can mess with sleep patterns

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comMarch 9, 2013 

— It's just about time to change those clocks.

With the switch to daylight- saving time Sunday, folks need to remember to move their clocks forward one hour -- spring forward.

For many, however, the time change means they might lose some sleep. It might not seem like a big deal, but those lost minutes can add up to big problems if people don't adjust to the change.

Dr. Sunit Patel of Merced, a sleep disorder specialist, said people will lose about an hour of sleep as a result of shift to daylight-saving time. Patel recommends going to bed 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual tonight to try to adjust to the time change Sunday.

According to a study from the National Sleep Foundation, there is usually a 17 percent increase in accidents after the time change, Patel said. "If we don't get good quality sleep, it affects your daytime function," he said.

Chronic sleep deprivation can shorten a person's life span by about five years, Patel said. That's why it's important for people to watch their sleeping patterns and adjust to changes.

"People need six to eight hours of sleep. If they get less than that, your body is not rested," said Patel, who is with the California Sleep Center in Merced.

"We try to increase the awareness that addressing sleep is important."

There are 84 sleep disorders. The most common ones include sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and insomnia, Patel said.

Serious health issues

Sleep deprivation can lead to more serious health issues. For example, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes and heart failure, and it can thicken a person's blood, Patel said.

Restless legs syndrome has been linked to iron deficiency, and insomnia can lead to high blood pressure as well, he said. Most people who suffer from insomnia have underlying causes, such as anxiety and depression, he added.

Some tips to getting a good night's sleep include avoiding caffeine at least six hours before going to sleep and avoiding bright light, Patel said. Having a good mattress and comfortable room temperature also are recommended.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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