Curing the seasonal time-change hangover

WASHINGTON — Do the one-hour time changes in the fall and spring cause sleep issues for you? Turns out, your problems may not end there.

Lean Plate Club™ blogger Sally Squires says the time change can also affect your eating habits and your waistline.

While it may be easier for many people to make the switch in the fall, Squires said it still causes problems — from reports of more traffic accidents and more heart attacks — to already sleep-deprived teenagers experiencing more difficulty in school.

While we’ve heard that we’re supposed to get eight hours of sleep per night, many people have a difficult time figuring out how to do that. Squires recommends an online calculator from the American Academy for Sleep Medicine that helps calculate when you should go to bed based on your age and the time you need to wake up.

There’s more to worry about from a lack of sleep than just being tired all day. Researchers have found that losing just one hour of sleep on one night negatively affects insulin and cortisol levels in the body as well as leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that help to regulate hunger and eating.

“It’s why some people are a little more cranky — they’re feeling hungry, they’re tired and they’re feeling more stressed because everything is out of whack,” Squires said.

What’s worse, she added, is when you are feeling this way you tend to want higher-calorie foods — foods with added sugar and fat. Researchers have also found that people who had poor quality sleep were also more likely to have a higher body mass index — which means they were adding weight.

“It can set off a vicious cycle,” Squires said. “As the quality of your sleep declines, the more hungry you are likely to get. And this kind of eating ultimately affects the quality of sleep you get at night.”

To break this cycle, try a number of changes to improve your sleep. Squires suggested setting a schedule for sleep, so that you are going to bed at the same time every night. Try taking hot showers or a hot bath before bed. Experts say as your body cools, you are more likely to fall asleep more easily. Reduce or avoid caffeine after noon. Turn off phones, tablets, computers and TVs at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Cut back on alcohol. Booze can help you fall asleep faster, but you’ll wake up just a few hours later. And be sure to get enough exercise. People who exercise regularly tend to report better sleep habits.

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