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Don't let Daylight Savings Time rob you of precious winks

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A few simple precautions can help ease the transition to Daylight Savings Time.

Though Daylight Savings Time is often the first nod to warmer weather, longer days in the sun and more hours spent outside, to many people it means just one thing: less sleep.  

In the early hours of Sunday, March 11, clocks all over the country will spring forward, taking with them a precious hour of sleep. According to Emory sleep expert Ann Rogers PhD, RN, FAAN, losing an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than gaining an hour in the fall.   

"If you regularly are getting seven to eight hours of sleep, you're likely to have few problems adjusting to the time change," says Rogers, who is a professor and holds the Edith F. Honeycutt Chair in Nursing at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.  "However, if you are sleep-deprived already, getting by on just six or seven hours of sleep a night, you'll probably feel more fatigued than usual on Sunday morning." 

The good news is that we'll gain that hour back Nov. 4, 2012. Until then, Rogers offers the following tips for adjusting to Daylight Savings Time.  

  • Keep a consistent schedule, arising at your usual time and going to bed at your usual time.  If you're tired, going to bed a few minutes earlier on Saturday night could be helpful. 
  • Be cautious driving to work on Monday morning.  Studies have shown that traffic accidents and fatalities spike on the Monday following the time change. Work place injuries also increase.
  • Light is the principal environmental cue for sleep and wakefulness, so expose yourself and your family to bright light, outdoors, on Saturday and Sunday.  Exposure to natural light when you first get up in the morning is one of the most powerful ways to increase alertness and re-set your circadian clock. 
  • Keep children on their usual schedule for sleeping, meals and naps.
  • Make sure everyone in the household, both parents and children, are getting enough sleep year round.

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