The Saturday/Sunday of the springtime clock change is without question my most despised night of the year.
Not only do I feel like someone stole an hour of blessed sleep from me, I don’t like feeling tired for a week or two as my body adjusts.
Now you might think that “springing ahead” a measly 60 minutes really isn’t that big a health deal… but it can be.
Sleep cycle adjustments mean less sleep overall, less quality REM sleep, weirder dreams, and more wakeups during the night.
Heart attack rates jump for seven days.
Car accidents because of drowsy drivers are higher for five days. Monday is the worst.
On the job accidents and at home mishaps jump. In other words, as you check that smoke detector with the clock change, be careful on that step ladder.
You get stupid. Studies show school test scores drop for 14 days. Grownups are less productive at work. And when it comes to personal stuff, it may not be the best time to make a major life decision.
Speaking of work, 80% of people “cyberloaf” on the job at double the usual rate for the first five days after the change. That means less time working on a project, more time surfing ESPN or checking out some good shopping deals.
This also may not be the best time for a strict diet — things get a little whacked out with appetite control and cravings for a week or two.
So what can you do? Not much. Sure, try to hit the sack earlier. Guzzle some extra caffeine. Get out into the early morning sunshine for several minutes to allow some brain chemicals to adjust (it’s the same theory for repair of jet lag, as the sunlight goes from the eyes to nerves in the brain that trigger normalization of hormones). And it’s never bad advice to get some extra exercise, even a simple walk.
For the 20% who are not affected by the clock change… good for you. For the 80% who are, good luck, I’m with you. And special mercy to “night owls” — they take up to 21 days to start feeling human again.
Bottom line: it’s not all in your head. You do feel lousy. And are allowed to be grouchy (I will even write you a doctor’s note for that.)
Frankly, I’m just glad I don’t have a surgery scheduled first thing Monday morning. Then again, so are my patients.