Light is Key to a Good Night’s Sleep, Morning Energy, Says UB Expert

Published March 17, 2014

Exposure to light at the right time can help our bodies adapt when we set the clocks forward each spring, says sleep medicine expert Eric Ten Brock, MD, professor of medicine.

Eric Ten Brock, MD

Eric Ten Brock, MD

“Make sure to get early morning sunlight, or bright light, and then avoid bright lights later in the evening,” he says. “Exposure to bright lights is the strongest signal that makes your body want to stay awake.”

Ten Brock, who directs the University at Buffalo’s sleep medicine fellowship, is one of four physicians in New York State certified in behavioral sleep medicine.

Sleep Deprived, Night Owls Face Greater Risks

Although most people adjust to the time change quickly and without much difficulty, many find it quite problematic, says Ten Brock, adding that the transition can take up to a week.

“For those who are already chronically sleep deprived, daylight saving time adds another stress; it accentuates sleep deprivation in the short term,” he says.

“Night owls in particular, who go to sleep later anyway, are especially vulnerable.”

“For the first few days of daylight saving time, the incidence of car and workplace accidents has been shown to increase by about 6 percent.”
Eric Ten Brock, MD
Professor of medicine

Time Change Brings More Accidents, Heart Attacks

The start of daylight saving time brings more than just fatigue.

“For the first few days, the incidence of car and workplace accidents has been shown to increase by about 6 percent,” he says.

In addition, “there is a small but documentable increase in myocardial infarction, believed to be caused by an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines,” he adds. “Daylight saving time increases the risk.”

Tips for a Smooth Transition

Ten Brock offers the following tips to make the transition to daylight saving time easier:

  • ease into it gradually: a few days before, start going to bed a little earlier and rising a little earlier
  • expose yourself to bright light or sunlight in the early morning
  • start dimming lights in the evening
  • use a dim nightlight — rather than a bright light — if you wake up in the middle of the night