Friday, 23 March 2007

Prepare your body clock for daylight savings

The end of daylight savings time may come with an extra hour on Australian clocks this Sunday, but it won’t necessarily mean more sleep, researchers say.

In fact, according to sleep researcher Sarah Blunden, most people will probably wake up at our body’s usual time, regardless of what the clock says.

“When we set our clocks forward or backward for daylight saving, we also have to re-set our body clocks,” said Blunden, of the University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research. “It’s important to realize that we can’t change our body clock as fast as the clock on the wall.”

To assist in recalibrating one’s body clock, Blunden suggests some exposure to sunlight in the mornings. Light suppresses the sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin, she explained, and the more this melatonin is suppressed in the morning, the more readily it will rise when it is needed in the evening.

Children are expected to find it especially difficult to re-set their body clocks. Blunden said it can take up to a week to get children back on track, and recommends that parents adjust their children’s sleeping and waking schedules gradually, at about 10 to 15 minutes each day.

“This gradual adjustment works really well for most kids and is much better than forcing a child who isn’t sleepy to go to sleep just because the clock says they should," she said.

Parents should also encourage their children to engage in physical activity to burn any excess energy, while being mindful of their exposure to sunlight with minimal exposure in the evenings and maximum exposure in the mornings, Blunden said.

More information is available from the University of South Australia’s press release.

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