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Morning sunshine can help when adjusting to daylight saving time

To help children grasp the concept of these

To help children grasp the concept of these time changes, Dr. Michael Green, associate medical director at Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, suggests teaching them how to reset clocks. Credit: Getty Images/PixelsEffect

Anyone dreading the start of daylight saving time on Sunday and who has not prepared by going to bed a little earlier each night this week, take heart: Getting out in the morning sunshine will help.

This will allow the body’s internal clock to mesh with the time change that every spring risks robbing many Americans of an hour of sleep, experts said.

"It’s set by when you get the morning light," Lauren Hale, a professor of family, population and preventive medicine at Stony Brook Medicine, said by telephone Friday.

And try to dim the lights an hour before bedtime, if possible, she said.

As Dr. Avram Gold, medical director at Stony Brook University Sleep Disorders Center, explained, the reason light rules these internal rhythms is that the optic nerve links to the area of the brain that controls them.

That part of the brain, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, then releases hormones, including cortisol, that trigger alertness, scientists say. At night, the same part of the brain tells the pineal gland to deliver melatonin, which induces sleepiness.

At least the Long Island weather forecast is propitious: both Saturday and Sunday should be sunny and warmer than usual, according to the National Weather Service.

Adults also may wish to postpone major decisions or long car trips for a few days, until their body clocks have reset, Hale said.

To help children grasp the concept of these time changes, Dr. Michael Green, associate medical director at Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, suggested teaching them how to reset clocks.

"Many people have clocks that automatically change, but don't forget to change the clock for the coffee pot," he said by email.

And, he advised: "I warn my children that changing clocks comes with a morning of grumpy parents sometimes."

This spring, of course, is the second time that the clocks will advance during the pandemic, and that raises additional possible complications.

"Keep in mind that fatigue can be a symptom of COVID-19," said Green, so if that tired feeling lasts all day it might be advisable to consult a doctor.

For decades, researchers have pinned the twice-yearly time changes and the difficulty people have adjusting to them to at least short-term spikes in car accidents and health problems, including heart attacks and strokes.

"There is not convincing data on whether that risk stays high throughout the duration when we are on daylight saving time," said Dr. Muhammad Rishi, a specialist in pulmonology, sleep medicine and intensive care with the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Whether COVID-19 has increased or decreased how much sleep people are getting does not yet appear to be fully understood, as various researchers found different results.

Working from home as so many office workers now do spare many of them from rising early to drive to work, when they may well be drowsier than usual, the experts said.

However, Dr. Gold said, individuals whose jobs in restaurants or hotels may have vanished, likely are undergoing more stress than usual, which may be depriving them of sleep.

The same holds true for first responders and health care workers, he noted.

Very few of them can work remotely. And all too many are enduring unimaginable strains treating COVID 19 patients.

People who have at least so far escaped the novel coronavirus may be "anxious and stressed, not only for their own health but for the health of their loved ones and families," Rishi said.

"We know that when we are anxious or depressed, it can increase the duration of sleep — but more often it decreases the duration of sleep," he said.

"It also makes falling asleep harder and staying asleep harder," Rishi added.

Further, insomnia can be caused by sleep apnea that has yet to be detected, noted Gold.

Gold likens the problems caused by the twice-yearly clock changes to flying between time zones, like taking a flight to Chicago from New York.

"It takes about a day to adjust."

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