pandemic, the clock change and sleep

On Sunday, November 1st, at 2a.m., clocks will be turned one hour back for Daylight Savings Time, so when the clock reads 10a.m. on Sunday morning, your brain and body will insist that it is really 11a.m.

“Gaining’ an hour in the fall is much easier for our bodies than ‘losing’ an hour in the spring,” says Dr. Praveen Rudraraju, medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital. “For many, sleep has become more elusive in these uncertain times.

“Sleep specialists are seeing an unprecedented numbers of patients suffering from insomnia and other sleep disturbances due to the pandemic, which presents a unique set of multiple stressors,” he adds. “There’s no quick fix for the anxiety that’s keeping people awake as they worry about their jobs, income, the health and safety of loved ones, social isolation and an uncertain future. There is actually a hormonal basis for this kind of insomnia. Anxiety triggers the production of stimulating chemicals in the body that keep people awake.

To get the most out of sleep, Dr. Rudraraju says that both the quality and quantity are important. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep in order to feel refreshed and alert. Sleeping less than five hours a night can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease by 40 percent, while chronic insomnia quadruples the risk of stroke. Numerous studies have linked poor-quality sleep to weight gain. Ghrelin, a hormone linked to hunger, increases when people sleep poorly.

Dr. Rudraraju advises people to practice good sleep hygiene:

1) Do not drink caffeinated beverages after noon, and eat dinner at least three to five hours before bedtime to give your gut time to relax before you turn off the lights.
2) Limit alcohol to one drink with dinner.
3) Eliminate all food and beverages with caffeine, including soda and chocolate, before bedtime.
4) Bedrooms are for sleeping and intimacy. If possible, do not work in your bedroom.
5) Turn off devices, including the computer, television and phone an hour before bedtime because the bright light from the screen and the brain activity these devices require prevent the body from winding down for the evening and may delay sleep. Instead, relax by reading or listening to quiet music.
6) Regular workouts have been linked to better sleep, but avoid any strenuous activity within four to five hours of hitting the sack.

If you often wake up groggy, have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, feel sleepy all day long or snore, you may need a sleep study to assess the possibility of a sleep disorder. An at-home sleep study can find out if you do have a sleep issue, but an in-hospital sleep study can diagnose whether it is caused by an underlying medical condition.

One of the most common disorders is sleep apnea, typically characterized by loud snoring and feelings of constant tiredness. The condition interrupts a person’s breathing hundreds of times a night, depriving the brain and heart of oxygen. Untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes and mental illness. It also puts people at increased risk of heart failure, arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats, and increases the risk of driving accidents.

For more information, visit or call 914-666-1114.

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