It’s National Sleep Awareness Week, and Loyola University Health System sleep specialists are offering advice on sleep behavior as we kick off Daylight Saving Time.

  1. Why Daylight Saving Time, which begins Sunday, March 11, can be hazardous to your health — and how to avoid coming to work or school on Monday sleep-deprived.
  2. What to do if your sleeping pill causes strange behavior such as eating food or driving while asleep.
  3. Dos and don’ts for insomniacs.

daylight saving timeNational Sleep Awareness Week, March 5 – 11, is an annual public education and awareness campaign to promote the importance of sleep.

It is held during the week leading up to the first Sunday of Daylight Savings Time, which can be a difficult time for insomniacs.

Daylight Saving Time

On average, people go to work or school on the first Monday of Daylight Saving Time after sleeping 40 fewer minutes than normal.

Researchers have reported there’s a higher risk of heart attacks, traffic accidents and workplace injuries on the first Monday of Daylight Saving Time.

Many people already are chronically sleep-deprived, and Daylight Saving Time can make them even more tired for a few days.

Loyola sleep specialists Sunita Kumar, MD, Nidhi Undevia, MD and Mari Viola-Saltzman, offer these tips to prepare for Daylight Saving Time:

  • In the days before the time change, go to bed and wake up 10 or 15 minutes earlier each day.
  • Don’t nap on the Saturday before the time change.
  • To help reset your internal body clock, expose yourself to sunlight in the morning as early as you can.

daylight saving timeDaylight Saving Time along with National Sleep Awareness Week puts the light on strange sleep behavior.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned that sleeping pills, including Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata, can cause bizarre sleep-related behaviors, including sleep-driving, making phone calls and preparing and eating foods, with no memory the next morning.

Loyola sleep specialists say they first confirm whether such behavior is due to sleeping pills or other causes, such as sleep apnea.

The behavior also may be due to taking more than one type of sleeping pill, combining it with alcohol or taking a higher-than-recommended dose. Behavior such as driving a car or using a stove while asleep can be dangerous.

The Loyola specialists say that if the behavior is medication-related, they immediately stop the patient’s medication. Sleeping pills ideally are used on a short-term basis — for example for episodes of acute insomnia or during times of acute stress.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a research-proven, effective alternative for treatment of insomnia.

Dos and Don’ts for Insomniacs:

  • Do: Go to bed when you are sleepy, and get up and go to bed at the same time every day.
  • Do: Exercise — but not within two or three hours of bedtime.
  • Do: Read, take a hot bath or do some other relaxing activity before bedtime. If you can’t  sleep, get out of bed and do something like reading or listening to music in another area of your home.
  • Don’t: Eat or exercise within two or three hours of bedtime.
  • Don’t: Smoke, drink alcohol or consume anything with caffeine close to bedtime.
  • Don’t: Take long naps in the afternoon or early evening.
  • Don’t: Watch television in the bedroom.
  • Don’t: Watch TV, work on a computer or eat when unable to sleep.
  • Daylight Saving Time is just around the corner and will not wait for you to catch up.

Kumar is medical director of Loyola’s Sleep Program and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.  Undevia is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.  Viola-Saltzman is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology.  

Portions of this article are courtesy of  Loyola University Health System

Pat Wyman

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