The clocks go back an hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, providing an extra hour of much needed sleep. And it turns out a lot of us need it.
“As many as 30 per cent of people in society are chronically sleep deprived,” says Dr. Charles Samuels, the medical director of Calgary’s Centre for Sleep and Human Performance.
We need to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night to function properly, and many of us try to get by on far less. Samuels says a big part of the problem is we work too much and do not devote enough time to recovery and rest.
“I see a lot of people who are causing significant harm to their health with too much work and not enough sleep.”
Another common problem this time of year is Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). Dr. Samuels says as many as five to 10 per cent of North Americans suffer from the disorder and it is more common in northern regions.
“The shorter days and extended periods of darkness mess up the body’s natural circadian rhythms,” he says. “We need sunlight or other bright light to help adjust those rhythms—or body clocks—to stay awake and alert.” Disturbances in melatonin and serotonin due to longer hours of darkness are believed to play a role in sleep and winter depression.
Also, known as the “Winter Blues,” SAD means a person who is normally very alert can become overly tired as their body struggles to cope with a lack of sunlight.
According to Samuels, problems with sleep are among the most common complaints patients bring to their physicians. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other serious medical conditions; as well as negatively affecting our productivity and safety at work, home and everywhere in between.
This weekend the doctor recommends:
1) Maintaining your regular bedtime on Saturday night when the clocks move back so that you are more likely to get that extra hour of sleep to help reduce sleep debt.
2) Keep your room dark when you are sleeping. Do not be in bright light or expose yourself to bright light through the use of technology before bed.
3) Increase light when you wake up. Light has an alerting effect that may help you get going in the morning. It will also help adjust your biological clock to the “new” sleep schedule.
So instead of complaining about the time change, soak it up this weekend, and enjoy that extra hour.
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