Warning: Changing To DST Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

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Daylight savings time 2012 begins Sunday and ends on November 4.  In March of each year, clocks are moved forward one hour from 2 a.m. standard time to 3 a.m. daylight savings time (or DST), and in November, clocks are moved back one hour from 2 a.m. DST to 1 a.m. standard time. The phrase "spring forward, fall back" is a helpful reminder of these time changes.

The reason for daylight savings 2012, like all daylight savings changes, is to increase the period of light during the afternoon while decreasing the hours of daylight in the mornings. This is why in 2012 clocks will be moved forward an hour in the beginning of spring and set backward an hour during fall.

The practice of DST has its benefits and problems. Adding light to the afternoon benefits afterwork activities and also has an economic benefit to retailers that prosper during daylight hours. However, DST can be problematic for timekeeping, travel and sleep cycles.

DST was first introduced in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist. William Willett independently came up with the idea of DST in 1905. As an avid golfer, Willett disliked how his afternoon golf round was cut short by early days. During 1916, Germany and its allies in WW1 were the first countries to adopt daylight savings time to ensure consistent railroad times and limit coal usage.

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 the next morning.

Loyola University sleep specialists say they first confirm whether such behavior is due to sleeping pills or other causes, such as sleep apnea. The behavior also may be due to 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 immediately stop the patient's medication. Sleeping pills ideally are used on a short-term basis -- for example for episodes of acute insomnia or during times of acute stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a research-proven, effective alternative for treatment of insomnia.
Dos 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.
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