Daylight saving time can wreak havoc on the millions of people already affected by sleep problems, but a few simple sleep habits can make all the difference this March 10.

Approximately 70 million people in the United States are affected by a sleep problem, and it can cause serious health and lifestyle issues, according to Dr. Aparajitha Verma, a neurologist with the Sleep Disorders Center at the Methodist Neurological Institute.  For those people, daylight saving time can be problematic.

Verma recommends that people make sure they are well rested going in to the time change.

“One way to do that is to start changing your hours before the time change. Get up an hour earlier. Retire an hour earlier.”

Circadian rhythms, or our internal body clocks, are the patterns of repeated activity associated with the environmental cycles of day and night.  Verma said people who have trouble sleeping may have an internal clock that has become out of sync with the day-night cycle.

“If you’re well rested and your circadian rhythm is working with your schedule, some people don’t even need an alarm clock to get up in the morning.”

Other tips for a good night’s sleep, according to Verma:

  • Sleep in a quiet and dark environment and set the thermostat at a slightly cooler temperature
  • Don’t allow pets in the bed
  • No reading, eating or watching TV in bed
  • Don’t watch the clock
  • Set a “wind down” time prior to going to bed
  • Don’t take over the counter sleep aids, as these can disrupt sleep stages  Instead, try drinking warms teas or milk to increase your body temperature, which helps induce and sustain sleep
  • Exercise is good for sleep, but not within two hours of going to sleep

If you cannot fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down, if you have excessive daytime sleepiness, or if you sleep for seven or more hours and still wake up tired, you may have a sleeping disorder.  Verma recommends people with these symptoms undergo an overnight sleep study at a center that is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, such as the sleep center at Methodist.