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How to keep your sleep on track after daylight saving time

By Admin User on March 23, 2018

Losing an hour to daylight saving time has hit students hard. Many were seen napping across campus at NAIT or indulging in a larger than usual coffee. Studies conclude that when we lose an hour to daylight saving time, we see many negative side effects, including an increase in car accidents, a 5.7 per cent increase in workplace injuries and a 24 per cent increase in heart attacks.

“We’re right on this cusp. A lot of us aren’t getting the best sleep at the best of times and taking a whole hour away can affect your safety,” says Cary Brown, an Occupational Therapy professor at the University of Alberta.  “People aren’t thinking as clearly, they’re not as well rested, they do more risky things and they worry more.”

Brown says the effects of sleep deprivation can be harmful in the short and long term. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer, infertility, cardiac problems, anxiety and depression. She specializes in sleep in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and says the best way to keep your rest on track starts with the environment of where you sleep.

“We’ve done studies where we’ve asked students on campus where they’re sleeping and we know light is a problem, sound is a problem, temperature is a problem,” reveals Brown.

“When you’re sitting in a dim lecture theatre falling asleep, but then at night are doing your academic work on your computers, playing your gaming machines or on your phones you’re exposed to blue spectrum light. Which tells the body to stay alert.”

Brown says reducing your light exposure at night can help you be ready for bed when you want to sleep.

“You can do things like getting lots of light in the daytime, as much daylight exposure as possible. But then you also want to limit the amount of light you get at night. If you get too much blue spectrum it takes about an hour, an hour and a half to produce melatonin.”

She suggests trying to dim out the blue spectrum light that is suppressing your melatonin. Brown recommends blue light filtering goggles to wear when still working at night, apps to filter the blue light from devices or software to limit blue light from computer screens. She understands that you can’t always turn your devices off but can help reduce the impact they have on your light exposure.

“You have to make sure your bedroom is cool enough. Somewhere between 18 to 22 C is the recommended temperature for sleeping,” says Brown. “We know that you have a core body temperature that needs to drop a little before sleep. That’s why it’s so hard to sleep in the summertime because it’s so hot outside.”

Brown says we can fool our body by having a warm bath or holding a hot water bottle and then take the heat source away to drop our temperature and make ourselves sleepy. Brown also suggests removing distractions from your sleep environment.

“We can change the environment to make ourselves not alerted by sounds external to our environment, like cars going by or doors slamming. You can use things like white noise machines to help provide consistent noise so there is no alerting. Sometimes you have to experiment to find the most effective type of noise for you.”

Brown alludes that caffeine consumption may play a part in hurting your sleep. She cites a Health Canada review for a safe amount of caffeine per day.

“They recommend no more than 350 to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. To give you some perspective on that, a 16-ounce cup from big brand coffee shops is about 320 milligrams.” Brown warns that caffeine can be hidden in all kinds of food.

“You can supplement caffeine into anything you want and you don’t have to declare it on food labelling. There’s things like waffles, potato chips, almonds,” says Brown. “Your caffeine intake can be adding up while you don’t even know, but the manufacturer added it to make you enjoy it and feel perky after you’ve had it.”

“If you want caffeine, you should have before 1 or 1:30 p.m. because it can take a long time to clear out of your system.” She also warns against using alcohol to fall asleep. “It creates a demand on your system, Your body is trying to deal with it and working hard to clear it out of your system, and you don’t sleep well.”

Ultimately, Brown says it all starts with your bedroom.

“I always tell people, go back to the basics. Start with something small you can do, don’t try to change your whole life. Maybe just look at how you can get rid of the light in your bedroom at night, if you can get a little mask over your eyes or earplugs for noise. Maybe that will be enough for what you need.”



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