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Media Release

March 22 2007

Don’t forget to re-set your body clock

If you think you’re going to get an extra hour of sleep this weekend when you set the clocks back, think again. Sleep experts say most of us will probably wake up at our body’s usual time, regardless of what the clock says.

“Our body doesn’t know that we changed the clock on the wall,” says Dr Sarah Blunden of UniSA’s Centre for Sleep Research.

“When we set our clocks forward or backward for daylight saving, we also have to re-set our body clocks and it’s important to realize that we can’t change our body clock as fast as the clock on the wall.”

According to Dr Blunden, this is especially true for children, who will likely wake up an hour earlier on Sunday morning. One of Australia’s leading paediatric sleep specialists, Dr Blunden said it can take up to a week to get children back on track.

“Kids aren’t going to be tired just because the clock says it’s their bedtime," she says. " There’s going to be a readjustment period and kids may be energetic at times they weren’t before and tired at times they weren’t before. Parents need to understand this is perfectly normal.”

If children aren’t sleepy at bedtime on Sunday night, Dr Blunden recommends putting them to bed when their body clock is used to going to sleep. For example, if a child’s bedtime is 7pm, they should go to bed when the clock says 8pm. Then each night put the child to bed 10-15 minutes earlier until they’re back to a 7pm bedtime.

“This gradual adjustment works really well for most kids and is much better than forcing a child who isn’t sleepy to go to sleep just because the clock says they should," she says. "To further reduce any sleep disruption, get the kids outside between 6-9am to help re-set their body clocks.

“Exposure to sunlight at this time helps us wake up and is the most beneficial for regulating sleep/wake patterns. This is because light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin and the more we suppress melatonin in the morning, the more likely it is to rise in the evening when we need it. Doing something energetic outside, such as exercise, will also help re-set our body clocks.

“Walking to work or school is great and for young children, going to the playground first thing in the morning can help but if you don’t have time for that, simply eating breakfast outside will have a benefit.”

Before bedtime, minimizing exposure to light and avoiding exercise will have the opposite effect. That’s why experts say a restful night time routine that doesn’t involve television is so important to good sleep. Dr. Blunden’s suggestions include reading a story, having a bath or quiet time with parents.

 


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