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Spring Forward!

Daylight saving time means we are all one hour earlier - yawn.

Every March we "spring forward" in concert with daylight saving time. Starting the second Sunday in March and ending the first Sunday in November, the practice involves moving our clocks forward one hour. This year we lose that hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 11. This practice has the sun setting an hour later which gives us more daylight in the evening hours. This practice started almost 100 years ago in 1918. All but two states – Arizona and Hawaii – observe it.

A battle plan for sleep

If we don’t plan ahead, that first Monday following the time change may make going to sleep at night more difficult and waking up harder. There are things we can do to make the transition easier. Here are my suggestions:

Take baby steps

If you begin the week before the time change, your body can adjust gradually. Change your bedtime and wake up time by 15 minutes. If you change this gradually, you can get your body used to the change in as little as 4 days. I recommend starting 2 weeks early and adjust 15 minutes every few days.

The sun is your friend - sometimes

Light suppresses the sleep-inducing substance melatonin in our bodies. Try to be in the light as much as possible during the day, and avoid light at night – particularly at bedtime. Cell phones, tablets and video games are not activities for the hour before bed. Although it may seem relaxing, the light from these devices keep your body from sleepiness.

Avoid caffeine in the evening

Be careful about caffeine and your kids. Soda, including some root beer and orange varieties, can contain as much as a cup of coffee. Chocolate has the stimulant so avoid candy bars and even chocolate ice cream. Of course you need to avoid energy drinks – including energy waters.

Ease into bedtime

Relax with quiet time for 20 to 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep. Reading or listening to quiet music are good choices. Establish and follow a bedtime routine: bathroom, teeth brushing, reading. Avoid trying to “make up” for lost sleep with a nap. That will just make going to sleep later that much more difficult.

Special suggestions for tired parents:

Once kids are asleep it may be difficult for you to wind down as well. A few ideas for parents include:

  1. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
  2. Exercise regularly. Any time of the day is ok.
  3. Keep work out of the bedroom. No computers, television or tablets.
  4. Keep paper and pen on the nightstand. If you have thoughts which concern you, write them down. Tell yourself you will address anything on the list the next day.

There are some advantages to daylight saving time. The time change gives us more daylight in the evening for warm weather outdoor activities. And, our bodies absorb more vitamin D from the sunshine – important to our bone, heart and brain health. Spring is almost here!

Emily Bendlin, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic - Gretna

Dr. Bendlin loves working with kids and their parents. She has always enjoyed caring for kids.  "I've always liked medicine, but more importantly I've always liked kids," Dr. Bendlin said. "During my pediatric rotation it was the 'aha' moment. It was so fun and I was so excited when I went home. I knew at that time this is it for me – pediatrics is where I’m supposed to be." According to Dr. Bendlin, "Working with kids is fun. What other ...

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