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Experts' time-change advice: Get some sleep

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By Bobby Kerlik
Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, 9:32 p.m.

Experts offer this advice for folks setting clocks back one hour this weekend: Don't stay up later Saturday night to make up for it.

“People should not sleep-deprive themselves because of (the transition),” said Brent Hasler, professor of psychiatry who's an expert in sleep and circadian rhythms at the University of Pittsburgh. “The simple advice is that if you take advantage to sleep longer it can be a nice transition.”Sleep experts said an extra hour of sleep is generally an easy adjustment — especially for sleep-deprived Americans — compared to losing an hour in the spring.

“The spring is really like a little bit of jet lag. (The fall) is an easy one to do,” said Timothy H. Monk, professor of psychiatry at UPMC.

“Our biological clock tends to run a little slow.”

Standard time takes effect at 2 a.m. Sunday, when, per federal law, daylight saving time ends. It resumes at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March.

A Swedish study published in 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that heart attacks increased by 5 percent in the first three weekdays in the transition to daylight saving time. Conversely, after the switch to standard time in the fall, the study found 5 percent fewer attacks, and the impact of the change occurred only on the first weekday.

While your heart may fare better in the fall, your chances of being in a car accident are about the same, no matter what time standard, at least one study says.

Experts point to studies that found there are more car accidents in the week after springing ahead than average. At least one study found the same for the time adjustment in the fall, Hasler said.

“It's a potentially problematic adjustment. Sleep and circadian rhythms are important and you see that particularly with traffic accidents. Typically springing forward is associated with that but at least one study found the same with falling back.”

Hasler attributed that to people staying up later to make up for the extra hour.

Kathryn Roecklein, a psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said that by falling back an hour, darkness comes earlier in the day, triggering depression in some people.

“It's really interesting because seasonal affective disorder coincides with this time of year. It's a form of clinical depression in the fall and winter,” Roecklein said.

“Circadian rhythm disruption is linked to lots of health problems. It's easier to delay your clock than advance it.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or

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