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Health & Fitness

DST? Another problem for sleep-deprived

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Published:   |   Updated: March 8, 2014 at 11:55 PM

TAMPA — At precisely 2 a.m. Sunday, the clocks all across the United States, with a few exceptions, will jump an hour ahead, giving the general population the false impression the days are longer and the mornings darker.

The real effect is this: Daylight saving time has timed warped us again, stealing one hour of sleep from what many say is an already sleep-deprived nation.

“Everybody just kind of bites the bullet and does it,” said Rachel Waatti, owner of Nicola's Donuts on Busch Boulevard. She and her employees begin the day at 4 a.m., sometimes earlier.

The loss of an hour doesn't really matter much when you have to get up that early anyway, she said. But it is important to customers who want their doughnuts when they want them, and usually, that's in the morning.

“Every employee here knows about the change,” she said. “They probably won't be fully awake on the day of the change. They definitely need their coffee that day.''

Terry Cralle is sleep health consultant and certified clinical sleep educator in Richmond, Va., who offers advice to corporations' wellness programs and universities and anyone else with sleep issues.

“What do I like most about daylight saving time? It's a great time to talk about the importance of sleep,'' she said. “As a society, we need to be reminded about the importance of sleep and the impact it has on our health.”

Missing an hour's sleep in the spring is noticed by almost everyone.

According to the Better Sleep Council, yanking that hour of slumber from the nation's droopy-eyed population just makes matters worse. According to a 2014 council survey, eight out of every 10 Americans find one extra hour of sleep somewhat or extremely valuable. Here are some other findings from the survey:

♦  79 percent of Americans feel more prepared for the day with an extra hour of sleep

♦  49 percent of Americans feel they don't get enough sleep at night

♦  30 percent say that they would be willing to pay $100 or more to get more sleep.

Cralle said the lost hour disrupts the body's natural rhythms associated with the 24-hour cycle of the earth's rotation. Light from the sun is important and daylight savings time, she said, “gets our internal clocks out of sync.”

“Some research suggests that transitioning to daylight saving time reduces sleep duration and sleep efficiency,” she said. “Most of us cannot afford to lose an hour of sleep. We should make every effort to avoid sleep loss altogether or make up for it with the transition to daylight saving time.”

So, why does much — but not all — of the world do this?

The whole idea of saving daylight in the summer originated in New Zealand in the late 1800s but wasn't implemented until 1916 by Germany, as a coal-conservation measure during World War I. Most of Europe followed suit. Daylight Savings Time was adopted in 1918 by the United States, though the practice was on again off again through the decades until it became a regular part of American culture in the 1970s as a way to conserve power during the energy crisis.

Nowadays, most of North America shifts to daylight saving time in the spring, while Russia, China, most of Australia and most of South America no longer change their clocks. Much of Africa never made the shift in the first place.

Even though daylight saving time begins on Sunday morning, researchers say the real effect is on Monday, when people have to get up and drag themselves to work. The lagging effect can last for up to a week, Cralle said.

“Sunday nights can be tricky even without daylight saving time,” she said. “There is a tendency to stay up later, sleep later or longer which may all serve to disrupt sleep patterns — leading to Monday morning exhaustion.”

She cites research that says there are more heart attacks, more vehicle wrecks, more work place accidents and workplace loafing in the days and week after the time change. There are far-reaching effects of less sleep, she said.

“I think it's critical that we educate people about sleep — and daylight saving time starts the conversation,” she said. “Overall, I think the conversation about sleep has been missing ... I hope we can extend the conversation beyond daylight saving time and at some point ... the loss of an hour of sleep may be deemed too unhealthy to institute. Sleep deprivation is a global public health problem. We need education and awareness.

“Sleep, along with diet and exercise, is the very foundation of health and well-being,” she said. “Our need for sleep is a necessity, not a luxury, and should be prioritized and managed accordingly.”

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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