Daylight saving: Get your body ready

By Matt Butner - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's time to "spring forward." This Sunday at 2:00 a.m. begins daylight saving time. Most of us welcome the extra hour of daylight, but some medical experts warn that the time change can affect how you sleep - and that can lead to health problems.

It may seem like a small change- setting our clocks ahead one hour- but that one change sets others in motion.

"We're looking at a domino effect, because it's a change that lasts," said Dr. Laura Aisenberg with Chippenham Family Medicine. "It's not just losing one hour for one night."

The time change can throw our body chemistry into turmoil, disrupting what's called the circadian rhythm.

"The circadian rhythm is a natural body clock that your body has, an internal set point that says this is the time that you go to bed," said Dr. Aisenberg.

A change in that rhythm can affect your body's production of hormones that control, among other things, your mood. That can lead to a form of depression.

"You're going to see a rise in things like seasonal affective disorder over the next couple of weeks," said Dr. Aisenberg.

The change can lead to physical effects as well. Some studies suggest that there is a spike in heart attacks in the first week of daylight saving. Doctors suggest that you ease into the time change to get your body ready.

"Tonight, go to sleep 15-20 minutes earlier," suggests Dr. Aisenberg. "Awaken in the morning 15-20 minutes earlier."

Another suggestion- don't wait until Sunday morning to set your clock forward. Do it Saturday night instead, and stick to the adjusted time.

Your body's adjustment probably won't happen overnight- your circadian rhythm has to re-set itself.

"Sometimes that can take up to 2 to 3 weeks to be fixed and adjusted," said Dr. Aisenberg.

If you don't come around in that time frame, you should see your doctor; you may have an underlying sleep disorder that can lead to more serious problems.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.