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Ester Marsh: Spring forward

This past weekend, we had to spring forward.

First of all, it is said that it is easier, for most people, to adjust to an added hour or hours than when you are losing time.

As we all know, last weekend we lost one hour. Or as some would say, it rained one hour less.

Anytime the time changes, as small as one hour, it messes with our 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.

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 spring forward, it will be dark again at 6 a.m. for at least a little while but a wonderful benefit is that it stays lighter longer. Go to bed your usual time at night. In a couple of days to a week, you will be used to the time change.

A well-balanced diet will help and be sure to hydrate your body appropriately. Limit alcohol consumption, as it does not promote good sleep.

And last, but definitely not least, exercise. Again, it is proven that exercise has all these positive effects on our bodies and minds.

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.

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