Dangerous 'Microsleeps' Follow Daylight Saving Time
Scientists warn of sudden lapses in attention
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2015 3:42 PM CDT
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(Newser) – Feeling groggy after the Daylight Saving Time switch? Scientists say you better watch out for "microsleeps," tiny lapses in attention that can create problems at work and accidents on the road, the Christian Science-Monitor reports. The microsleeps apparently account for extra car crashes and workplace injuries that follow our lost hour each March. "Small changes in the amount of sleep that people get can have major consequences in everyday activities," researcher Stanley Coren wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine years ago. "It is likely that the effects are due to sleep loss rather than a nonspecific disruption in circadian rhythm, since gaining an additional hour of sleep at the fall time shift seems to decrease the risk of accidents."

What to do, then? Sleep scientists suggest hitting the hay a little earlier over the first few nights after the time change, and absorbing some extra sun in the evening. But as days grow longer, those bright nights affect the brain and make it harder to fall asleep as early as before, sleep specialist Dr. Supat Thammasitboon tells the Times-Picayune. He explains that our brains react to darkness by secreting melatonin, a hormone linked to sleep timing, so longer days make melatonin kick in later. But it seems most people adjust after a couple of weeks. In dire cases, melatonin supplements can be bought over the counter—and if you do it, Thammasitboon says, half a pill is often best so you're less groggy in the morning. Short of that, he says that "lifestyle modifications will [often] do the job." (Here's another big risk to the start of DST.)
 

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