"Troubled sleepers, listen up. Your problems may get worse Sunday with Daylight Saving Time, the annual rite of moving the clock forward each spring.
Even losing an hour of sleep can cause decreased alertness and more accidents in spring, when Americans shift clocks forward in the twice-a-year time-change ritual.
But a University of Michigan sleep expert says there are ways to head off problems, including going to bed a half-hour earlier tonight, waking a half-hour earlier than usual Sunday and sitting in the sun Sunday morning to allow your body's wake-sleep cycle to adjust.
"The most important thing is, when you wake up, expose your eyes to light," said Dr. Anita Valanju Shelgikar, a U-M sleep medicine specialist. "Open the blinds and turn on a light; tell your brain that this is morning.
"Light is such a powerful cue to our brains" and the body's internal circadian rhythms, which affect sleep, eating and even hormones, she said.
How to avoid sleep problems caused by Daylight Saving Time
Sleep problems triggered by Daylight Saving Time, which kicks in at 2 a.m. Sunday, when clocks are moved forward an hour, can occur for a week or two and are greater for "morning larks and night owls," says Dr. Anita Valanju Shelgikar, a U-M sleep medicine specialist.
That's because people who have irregular sleep patterns already have circadian rhythms that are well off the norm, she said. The problems are like the jet lag travelers experience after they've returned from a long trip -- a fatigue that often is worse than the symptoms experienced getting there.
As many as 3 in every 10 Americans have sleep problems. Stress -- both the so-called good kind that comes from planning a celebration, for example, and the bad kind triggered by job loss -- also affects sleep loss. And sleeplessness is on the rise due to Michigan's recession, Shelgikar said.
"We're definitely seeing more people with stress who never had sleep problems before."
Here are some tips to help with the time change and sleep troubles in general:"
"• Go to sleep a half-hour earlier than usual tonight and wake up a half hour earlier.
• Expose yourself to outdoor or indoor light. If you have serious sleep problems, consider purchasing a blue light used to combat winter sadness. The lights can help adjust the body's internal clock that helps regulate sleep.
• Don't eat or exercise within two hours of bedtime.
• If you need a daytime nap, limit it to 30 minutes.
• Before bed, take a warm bath; listen to soothing music; do light reading, but stay away from a page-turner that could keep you up.
• Avoid alcohol. It may help you get to sleep, but it truncates it.
• Use the bedroom for sleeping and intimacy, not TV watching, video games or Internet surfing.
• Still can't get to sleep? Get out of bed and try the tips again."