While the brutal winter has many Americans excited to "spring forward," this weekend's shift to daylight saving time and the potential lost hour of sleep also are reminders of the widespread problem of insomnia. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is recognizing the second annual Insomnia Awareness Day on Monday, March 9, to serve as a reminder for those who suffer from insomnia that help is available.
When we wake up after shifting our clocks forward, the lost hour of sleep may leave us feeling groggy and fatigued -- the way those with insomnia may feel on a day-to-day basis. For most of us, we recover from the time shift quickly -- within a few days. However, those who suffer from chronic insomnia have increased risk for depression and hypertension. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona shows that persistent insomnia even increases your risk of death. Fortunately, effective treatment options, including cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), can help you overcome insomnia and significantly improve your health and quality of life.
As many as 30 to 35 percent of adults suffer from temporary insomnia, which can be caused by a sudden change in schedule, such as the shift to daylight saving time. Chronic insomnia, which affects as many as 10 percent of adults, involves ongoing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or regularly waking up earlier than desired, despite an adequate opportunity for sleep. It includes symptoms such as daytime fatigue, worry about sleep, cognitive impairment, irritability and lack of energy. The latest findings now link persistent insomnia with an increased risk of death independent of other factors -- such as age or gender.
By raising awareness about insomnia, and by letting people know they are not alone and treatment options are available, I hope that people who are suffering will seek help and improve their quality of life. You do not need to let insomnia prevent you from sleeping well.
To help prepare you for the switch to daylight saving time, I recommend the following tips for adjusting your sleep schedule ahead of time:
• Go to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier each night before the time change. This will give your body time to adjust.
• Begin to adjust the timing of other daily routines that are "time cues" for your body. For example, start eating dinner a little earlier each night.
• On Saturday night, set your clocks ahead one hour in the early evening. Then go to sleep at your normal bedtime.
• After the switch forward, head outdoors for some early morning sunlight. The bright light will help set your internal clock, which regulates sleep and alertness.
• Stick to your usual bedtime on Sunday night to get plenty of sleep before the workweek begins on Monday.
If you consistently experience poor sleep in your normal routine, you should seek help from the sleep team at an accredited sleep center. A complete sleep evaluation can determine if you have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, that can seriously impact your health and quality of life. Visit sleepeducation.org for more information.