Daylight saving time can wreak havoc on the millions of people already affected by sleep problems, but a few simple sleep habits can make all the difference this March 9.

Approximately 70 million people in the United States are affected by a sleep problem, and it can cause serious health and lifestyle issues, according to Dr. Aparajitha Verma, a neurologist with the Sleep Disorders Center at the Methodist Neurological Institute (NI). For those people, daylight saving time can be problematic.

Verma recommends that people make sure they are well rested going in to the time change.

"One way to do that is to start changing your hours before the time change. Get up an hour earlier. Retire an hour earlier."

Circadian rhythms, or our internal body clocks, are the patterns of repeated activity associated with the environmental cycles of day and night. Verma said people who have trouble sleeping may have an internal clock that has become out of sync with the day-night cycle.

"If you're well rested and your circadian rhythm is working with your schedule, some people don't even need an alarm clock to get up in the morning."

Other tips for a good night's sleep, according to Verma:

-- Sleep in a quiet and dark environment and set the thermostat at a slightly cooler temperature

-- Don't allow pets in the bed

-- No reading, eating or watching TV in bed

-- Don't watch the clock

-- Set a "wind down" time prior to going to bed

-- Don't take over the counter sleep aids, as these can disrupt sleep stages Instead, try drinking warms teas or milk to increase your body temperature, which helps induce and sustain sleep

-- Exercise is good for sleep, but not within two hours of going to sleep

If you cannot fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down, if you have excessive daytime sleepiness, or if you sleep for seven or more hours and still wake up tired, you may have a sleeping disorder. Verma recommends people with these symptoms undergo an overnight sleep study at a center that is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, such as the sleep center at Methodist. To find out if you may have a sleep disorder, go to and click on the link to the sleep disorders quiz.

About the Methodist Neurological Institute

The Methodist Neurological Institute (NI) houses the practice and research activities of the departments of neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, neurophysiology and physical medicine & rehabilitation at The Methodist Hospital. The mission of the NI is to advance the discovery of the origins, mechanisms and treatment of neurological disease and to provide comprehensive care for patients with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord.

Methodist is primarily affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital. Methodist is also affiliated with the University of Houston. Methodist is ranked among the country's top centers in 14 specialties in U.S News & World Report's 2007 America's Best Hospitals issue. Methodist is ranked in more specialties than any other hospital in Texas, and is 9th in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery.

Methodist Hospital, Houston
6565 Fannin St.
Houston, TX 77030
United States