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Ester Marsh column: Adjusting to the time change

Spring forward. Even a one-hour change will make a difference and affect you in all kinds of ways. First of all, it is said that it is easier, for most people, to adjust to an added hour than when you are losing time. With spring’s time going forward, we lose one hour.

Anytime the time changes, even an hour can mess with your biological clock. It is an internal biological clock that regulates the timing for sleep in humans. The activity of this clock makes us sleepy at night and awake during the day.

Our clock cycles an approximately 24-hour period. This biological clock is also involved in controlling reproductive cycles in some animals through its ability to track information about the changing lengths of daylight and darkness during a year. My chickens are finally laying their eggs regularly again.

Did you know that we spend about one third of our lives asleep? Sleep is a required activity, not an option. Sleep actually appears to be required for survival. Rats deprived of sleep will die within two to three weeks, a time frame similar to death due to starvation. No wonder that one hour can affect us!

A misconception about sleep is that the body adjusts quickly to different sleep schedules. The biological clock that times and controls a person’s sleep/wake cycle will attempt to function according to a normal day/night schedule, even when that person is trying to change it.

The biological clock can be reset, but only by the appropriately timed cues, but, even then, by one or two hours per day at best. For some people, a one-hour change does not really make a difference, and for some people (like me) it makes a huge difference.

This is what helps me: Get up at the usual time. If that is 5:30 a.m., get up at 5:30. My biological clock says it is 4:30 a.m. By getting up and starting your day, you will get in the swing of things within a couple of days. Of course, it helps when it is light outside to start your day early. With this spring forward, it will be dark again at 6 a.m., at least for a little while. Do the same at night. In a couple of days to a week, you will be used to the time change.

Eat a well-balanced diet and hydrate your body appropriately. Limit alcohol consumption (as it does not promote good sleep and consuming alcohol in the evening can also make sleep apnea problems worse). And last, but definitely not least, exercise. Again, it is proven that exercise has all these positive effects on your body and mind.

Happy almost St. Patrick’s Day!

Ester H. Marsh Health and Fitness Director JF Hurley family YMCA

 

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