News Release

October 30, 2007

Contact: Christopher DeFrancesco, 860-679-3914

An Extra Hour of Sleep, Then What?

Changing of Clocks Can Bring Changes in Well-being

FARMINGTON, CONN. – The return to standard time comes with more than just an extra hour of sleep the night of Nov. 3.

For about 500,000 Americans, the earlier sunset is more than bothersome; it’s downright depressing. It has to do with circadian rhythms, which are controlled by light exposure.

“It’s not unusual for any or all of us to have a little trouble dealing with the time change,” says Andrew Winokur, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Connecticut Health Center Department of Psychiatry. “But when it triggers things like depression, sluggishness, sleeplessness, fatigue, and food cravings, the signs point to seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.”

Though not curable, treatment options for SAD include light therapy, psychotherapy and drug therapy. Winokur also has some recommendations:

  • Increasing exposure to light.
  • Focusing on positive thoughts.
  • Exercising (outdoor exercise is more beneficial).
  • Reducing sugar and carbohydrate consumption.
  • Maintaining regular sleep habits and not oversleeping.
  • Maintaining usual levels of social activity.

"If symptoms persist or become severe or disabling, it is advisable to consult with your primary care provider or with a mental health professional,” Winokur says.

For others, the time change can be the start of something healthier, says Daniel McNally, M.D., medical director of the UConn Sleep Disorders Center.

“You get an extra hour of sleep, it’s a gift, take advantage of it,” McNally says. “Most of us are sleep-deprived, so this is the perfect time to say, ‘OK, I’m going to make a little more time for sleep, maybe start a new habit and get to bed earlier,’ and get a good night’s sleep not just that first night of the time change, but every night.”

McNally says this is the easier of the two annual time changes because “falling behind” one hour puts the clocks on the wall more in sync with our body clocks.

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