“Sleep problems are widespread and on the rise, yet many people dismiss the issue and don’t realize the consequences that can result,” said Hrayr Attarian, MD, neurologist at Northwestern Memorial and associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “As people reset their clocks, they should also take this opportunity to reset their sleep habits in order to avoid possible health consequences. Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, trouble with memory and learning and a higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure.”
Attarian recommends that even though we are gaining an hour, you should still go to bed at the same time. Doing so will help make sure you don’t go into Monday sleep deprived. To help people get a good night’s sleep this weekend and throughout the year, Attarian offers tips on proper sleep habits.
• Consistency is key – Go to bed when you are sleepy and stick to a set rise time. You cannot force yourself to fall asleep, but you can always get up when you need to. Not sleeping in may help consolidate your sleep at night.
• Bedroom boundaries – Make sure the bedroom is only for going to sleep. It shouldn’t be a place to watch TV, do work, surf the internet or eat. That way your body knows that when you get into bed, it’s time to go to sleep.
• Work up a sweat – Exercise can give your body something to rest from and help you stay asleep at night. To allow enough wind-down time, it’s best to complete exercise at least two to three hours before going to bed.
• Set the stage – Take a hot shower then get into a cool bed. The drop in your body’s temperature after taking a hot shower and entering a cooler room is a process that naturally mimics day and night, and may help guide you to sleep.
• Put your thoughts to bed – Jot down your to-do list for the next day and put it aside so you feel organized and can avoid racing thoughts that may prevent you from falling and staying asleep.
• Relax – Avoid activities such as going online or watching TV that will hold your interest and keep you engaged. Listening to music or reading something that you find mindless in a dimly lit area may help you feel sleepy.
The end of Daylight Savings time also means an earlier sundown, leading to more nighttime driving for many Americans. According to Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, director of Northwestern Memorial’s Sleep Disorders Center, drowsy driving can lead to more accidents on the road.
“There is a significant increase in the number of car accidents in the days following the end of Daylight Savings Time (DST), which many attribute to lack of alertness from insufficient sleep,” said Zee, who is also a professor of neurology, neurobiology and physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. It seems contradictory that accidents would increase when an extra hour is actually gained with the shift from DST in the fall. Perhaps, in anticipation of the longer day, many people are tempted to stay up later on the weekend, which can lead to dangerous late night driving while drowsy. It is important to recognize that the increased risk of accidents associated with shifts to and from DST result from the need of the biological clock to adjust to the time change, as well as behavioral factors. For most sleep deprived Americans, the best thing to do is to take advantage of the end of DST to gain an extra hour of sleep.
Zee adds that drinking a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverages just before getting behind the wheel may help temporarily. Most importantly, make sure you get enough sleep every night and avoid medications that make you drowsy. Zee warns that splashing water on your face, pinching yourself, listening to loud music or rolling the windows down do not help prevent falling asleep behind the wheel.
If sleep doesn’t come naturally or you experience excessive sleepiness during the day despite a good sleep regimen, speak with your physician to determine the cause of sleep loss and regain control over your ability to be well-rested. Northwestern Memorial’s new 10,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Sleep Disorders Center conducts day and night studies for the diagnosis and treatment of a multitude of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, nocturnal behaviors such as sleep walking, talking and eating in sleep, acting out dreams, and narcolepsy. Patients also have the option of completing diagnostic studies at home using ambulatory monitoring technology.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment, visit the Sleep Disorders Center online or call 312-926-0779.