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March 8, 2014

Try not to lose sleep over turning clocks forward

Daylight-saving time starts early tomorrow morning, a change that can be a little disruptive to sleep patterns for about a week.

When clocks spring forward at 2 a.m. tomorrow, besides finding you’re awake a little earlier than you wanted on a weekend morning, you may be a little more tired next week, too.

John Murray, coordinator of the sleep technology program at Northern Essex Community College, said it can take up to a week for your body’s circadian rhythm, the internal process living creatures have to regulate sleep and wakefulness, to adjust even to an hour difference.

“The circadian rhythm needs to be reset with this change,” he said. “It will do it over time, but that first week, the transition is really tough for some people.”

One of the major signals that influences the body’s rhythm is light, Murray said. Dim lights, or lights out, signals it’s bedtime, which causes the body to release melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Light in the morning can trigger the release of cortozone, which stimulates wakefulness.

Murray, former director of the Maine Sleep Institute in Portland, said one tip for adjusting to the time change is to make sure the lights are low and computers are off before bed and that you get a good dose of morning light when you wake up. Other tips include avoiding naps, exercising daily and trying to get to bed a little earlier.

Every year, the National Sleep Foundation releases a survey and research project around the change back to daylight savings time. This year, the foundation is focusing on computers, including phones and tablets, in the bedroom. Murray said research is beginning to show the light from a computer screen, partly because you look directly at that light, can trigger the release of wakefulness hormones in the body, impeding sleep or even causing insomnia.

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