How to cope with spring forward sleep loss

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As we spring forward this weekend, brace yourself.

The daylight savings time change, designed to maximize the number of daylight hours during the warmer months, can throw off our body clocks, at least temporarily.

"It really is going to affect everyone, whether you're an early bird or a night owl," sleep medicine specialist Dr. Russell Rosenberg says.

He is the founder and CEO of NeuroTrials Research in Sandy Springs, and he says it can take a few days to adjust to moving the clock ahead an hour.

Because Rosenberg says, many of us are already running chronically short on sleep.

"The time changes can wreak havoc on a lot of people, especially those on the edge of having a sleep disorder, or who already have a sleep disorder," Rosenberg says.

On the first Monday after the time change, Rosenberg says, expect to have a little difficulty concentrating, even paying attention behind the wheel.

"We know there are more motor vehicle accidents and workplace accidents and more absenteeism on the day after the time change," he says.

To get yourself ready, start moving up your bedtime.

"Try to go to bed a little bit earlier, maybe 10 to 15 minutes a night, for 3 or 4 nights," Dr. Rosenberg.

Sunday morning, and for the rest of the week, get up and get outdoors, and into the sunlight, which will nudge your brain to wake up. Rosenberg says short, daytime naps can help, too. 

Try to keep your bedtime and wake-up times on a consistent schedule, even on the weekend.

"Our bodies and brains like having a regular routine," Dr. Rosenberg says.  "So, going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, all of those things will help somebody adjust to this time change."

So, spring forward, yes. But go easy.

Your body just needs time.

"Most people can adjust in 4 or 5 days, maybe a week at the most," Rosenberg says.