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The Hazards of Daylight Saving Time and Other Tips for National Sleep Awareness Week

MAYWOOD, Ill. -- It's National Sleep Awareness Week, and several of the sleep specialists at Loyola University Health System are offering advice on:

-Why Daylight Saving Time, which begins Sunday, March 11, can be hazardous to your health -- and how to avoid coming to work or school sleep deprived on that Monday.

-What to do if your sleeping pill causes unusual behavior such as eating food in the middle of the night or even sleep-driving.

-Do's and don'ts for insomniacs.

National Sleep Awareness Week, March 5 - 11, is an annual public education campaign to promote awareness about the importance of sleep. It is held during the week leading up to the first Sunday of Daylight Saving Time, which can be a difficult time for insomniacs.

Loyola sleep specialists Sunita Kumar, MD, Nidhi Undevia, MD, and Mari Viola-Saltzman, DO, offer these tips:

  • Daylight Saving Time. On average, people go to work or school on the first Monday of Daylight Saving Time after sleeping 40 fewer minutes than normal. Researchers have reported there's a higher risk of heart attacks, traffic accidents and workplace injuries on the first Monday of Daylight Saving Time.
  • Many people already are chronically sleep-deprived, and Daylight Saving Time can make them even more tired for a few days.
  • In the days before the time change, go to bed and wake up 10 or 15 minutes earlier each day.
  • Don't nap on the Saturday before the time change.
  • To help reset your internal body clock, expose yourself to sunlight in the morning as early as you can.

Strange sleep behavior. The Food and Drug Administration has warned that sleeping pills, including Ambien®, Lunesta® and Sonata®, can cause bizarre sleep-related behaviors, including sleep-driving, making phone calls and preparing and eating foods, with no memory of it the next morning.

Loyola sleep specialists say they would first confirm whether a patient’s behavior is due to sleeping pills or other causes, such as sleep apnea. The behavior also may result from taking more than one type of sleeping pill, combining it with alcohol or taking a higher-than-recommended dose.

Behavior such as driving a car or using a stove while asleep can be dangerous. The Loyola specialists say that if the behavior is medication-related, they would immediately stop the patient's medication. Sleeping pills ideally are used on a short-term basis -- for example during episodes of acute insomnia or stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a research-proven, effective alternative for treatment of insomnia.

Do’s and Don'ts for Insomniacs:

  • Do: Go to bed when you are sleepy, and get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Exercise -- but not within two or three hours of bedtime. Read, take a hot bath or do some other relaxing activity before bedtime. If you can't sleep, get out of bed and do something like reading or listening to music in another area of your home.
  • Don't: Eat or exercise within two or three hours of bedtime. Smoke, drink alcohol or consume anything with caffeine close to bedtime. Take long naps in the afternoon or early evening. Watch television in the bedroom. Watch TV, work on a computer or eat when unable to sleep.

Kumar is medical director of Loyola's Sleep Program and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Undevia is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Viola-Saltzman is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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