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Will Daylight Savings Time Mess With Your Head?

Believe it or not, losing just an hour of sleep this weekend could cause up to two weeks of fatigue. Here’s how to beat the spring-ahead transition.

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Compared to traveling across several time zones, setting the clocks ahead one hour—which will happen in the U.S. on Sunday at 2 a.m. EST—“should not be a big deal, but it is for some people,” said Dr. Ronald Kramer, a neurologist who practices sleep medicine and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

For many people, losing one hour of sleep can feel like jet lag from a cross-country trip. The resulting tiredness—that lasts for a few days or up to 2 weeks—can interfere with thinking and memory, and might even affect your performance on-the-job or during your workout.

To avoid feeling drained by the end of the weekend, Dr. Kramer offered these tips:

  • Plan ahead. Anticipate what your schedule will be like this weekend, suggests Dr. Kramer. If you have to get up early for work or to hit the gym, try going to bed earlier.
  • Take melatonin. You can’t always force yourself to go to bed earlier, but this natural hormone can fool your brain into thinking it’s time to sleep. Dr. Kramer recommends taking 0.5 milligrams of melatonin 2 to 3 hours before your usual sleep time, starting a few days before the time change (read: now).
  • See the light. While melatonin is the nighttime sleep signal, “light is the number one thing in our environment that wakes our brain up,” says Dr. Kramer. Turning on the lights in the morning can help your body’s clock shift to its new schedule.

And if you are really thrown off by the shift to Daylight Savings Time? Prescription sleep medication may help you fall asleep earlier, but difficulty with this small of a time change may also signal an ongoing sleep problem, says Dr. Kramer. See your doc to discuss.

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