Spring forward, then learn to deal with lost sleep

Bo Emerson

ATLANTA -- Late Saturday night (or 2 a.m. Sunday morning), you will turn your clocks ahead an hour and then spend the rest of Sunday stumbling around wondering why you don't feel like "springing forward."

It's because daylight-saving time is here, giving us an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day while stealing an hour from our morning snooze.

Invented as a joke by Benjamin Franklin (he was making fun of Parisians who slept past noon), the policy was adopted nationally in 1966 after being tried out in the previous world wars, with the stated goal of conserving electricity by reducing the need for evening illumination.

According to a national survey commissioned by Mattress Firm Inc., it takes about three-and-a-half days to adjust to the loss of that hour of sleep in the morning, but most of us do nothing to get ready for it.

This is a problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many Americans are already sleep-deprived, and insufficient sleep is "a national public health epidemic."

A University of Pennsylvania chronobiologist suggests that fewer than 10 percent of Americans can get by on eight hours a night. But a recent National Health Interview Survey found that about 30 percent of American adults get less than six hours a night.

So, every hour counts. Here's how to get ready for the switch Sunday.

• According to the National Sleep Foundation, you can use morning light to help your sleep at night. Get a good dose of sunlight early in the day, then limit your light exposure later at night. In other words, if you get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, don't turn on the light. Use a nightlight.

• Stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends.

• Don't watch TV or answer emails in bed. Julia Samton, a New York-based neuropsychiatrist, said that the bedroom "should be for sleeping and sex -- nothing more."

The phrase that helps us figure out which way to turn our clocks -- "spring forward, fall back" -- is easy to remember, but purists might have one small quibble: It's not actually spring when we spring ahead. (Spring won't arrive until March 20.)


By Bo Emerson
Cox Newspapers