Daylight Savings doesn't have to be nightmare for sleep deprived

For those who enjoy a full night of sleep every 24 hours, losing an hour once a year is no big deal. But for the rest of us, springing the clocks ahead at 2 a.m. on Sunday will likely lead to slapped snooze buttons or desperate cries to various deities.

Thankfully, a local sleep expert says there is hope for those of us hiding under our pillows every morning. If we start preparing now, that lost hour won't be so bad.

Dr. Michael Vitiello, co-director of the University Of Washington Center for Research on Management of Sleep Disturbances, says people who consistently get enough sleep likely won't be affected too much by one lost hour. On the other hand, people who are sleep deprived could feel the effects of Daylight Saving Time quite a bit.

"If you're somebody who's got good sleep habits this will be a just little bump you may grumble about," Vitiello says. "But if you're teetering on the edge it can be problematic."

Some will feel drowsy or irritable on Monday, Vitiello says. And, sleep deprivation can affect your ability to problem solve or complete normal mental tasks.

Daylight Saving Time can also lead to more dramatic effects. Vitiello says data shows there is typically an increase heart attacks and auto and industrial accidents around the time we "spring forward," he suspects due to fatigue.

"A lot of bad things happen when we spring forward," he says.

But there's an easy way to avoid falling asleep at your desk on Monday - start planning for the time change now. Vitiello says people won't notice the time change too much if they start waking up 15 minutes earlier each day until Sunday.

When the clock changes, Vitiello urges people not to sleep in that extra hour.

"That's only going to perpetuate the problem," he says. "When are you going to correct for that hour? Bite the bullet and let your body absorb the change."

This strategy works well for people who are trying to improve their everyday sleep habits as well.
Instead of trying to force yourself to go to bed earlier when you're not tired, Vitiello advises people set a slightly earlier time to get up every day. While that first early morning might be tough, eventually people tend to get tired earlier and begin going to bed at a more appropriate time.

"If you have trouble sleeping you can't force it by staying in bed longer," Vitiello says. "More time in bed does not mean more time asleep."

Vitiello says the biggest mistake working professionals tend to make is depriving themselves of sleep throughout the week and then sleeping in on the weekends to "catch up." When you sleep in Saturday morning, you tend to stay up later Saturday night, which causes you to sleep in even later Sunday morning. When Sunday night rolls around you won't be tired until much later so you suffer after waking up early Monday morning, Vitiello says. Worst of all, you're then starting your work week off sleep deprived.

Instead, Vitiello recommends people try to get up about the same time every day.

Despite these tips, Vitiello says anyone suffering from a serious sleep disorder should seek professional help.