Local News

Spring Forward, Fall Back -- Reset Your Internal Clock

Posted October 26, 2006

— Spring forward, fall back -- it's the end to Daylight-Saving Time, which means Americans in most of the United States will set their clocks back an hour when they go to bed Oct. 28.

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    Spring Forward, Fall Back -- Reset Your Internal Clock

    Gaining even that one hour can affect the human body's ability to perform and be alert, but there are simple ways to adjust the body's internal clock, according to Dr. Bradley Vaughn of the UNC Sleep Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Medicine.

    "It actually helps the brain and the body be prepared for the next events coming up," said Vaughn, who uses the body's clock to help people with sleep disorders.

    Three external cues, he says, help set anyone's internal clock: bright light, social interactions and exercise.

    "We can use those three time-givers to help our brains realize what time we want it to be." Vaughn said.

    Bright lights can help a person stay awake. When Daylight-Saving Time ends, it gets darker earlier, which can fool the body into winding down too soon.

    Vaughn recommends full- or enhanced-spectrum light bulbs that include the bluer colors of daylight. Incandescent bulbs emit a duller, yellowish light.

    "We use full-spectrum lighting in the (UNC Sleep Center) control room to help the technologists at night so that they feel more awake," Vaughn said.

    Staying active in the early evening can also help the body adjust to the time change. The brain sets the body's metabolic rate and tells it when to cool down for sleep. That's why Vaughn recommends exercise in the morning or afternoon.

    "If you exercise late at night, you'll increase your body's temperature and potentially actually disturb your sleep through the night," he said.

    Vaughn says the end of Daylight-Saving Time often results in a higher number of vehicle accidents late at night, because drivers might not be as alert. In the spring, he says, the number of vehicle accidents tends to rise during the early morning.

    Rather than making the full hour adjustment in one night, Vaughn recommends going to bed on Friday night a half-hour later and another half-hour later on Saturday night.

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