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How to take advantage of the extra hour of sleep we gain Sunday

Daylight saving time ends Sunday morning and the hour push back in clocks provides the opportunity to get a little more shut eye. That’s, of course, only if you take advantage.

“Sometimes people try to use the extra hour to do too many things and then wind up sleep deprived,” said Dr. Atul Malhotra, medical director of the sleep disorders research program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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While most people sail pretty easily through the time change, he said, some may feel “a little bit out of wack” from the shift, and they may want to prepare a day or two ahead of time by going to sleep 20 minutes earlier each night to shift back gradually.

“Those who feel like they have jet lag every time the clock shifts may want to try this technique,” he said.

Avoiding caffeine after lunch and exercising right before bedtime can help you avoid feeling too stimulated as you try to get to sleep a little earlier.

With sunset coming an hour earlier, you might also need to plan to shift your workout schedule if you like to exercise outdoors in the evening when it’s still light out. Switching to a morning walk or jog may be easier with dawn coming earlier, and the morning light exposure can help you adjust to a new circadian rhythm.

If you feel the winter blues setting in with shorter days and longer nights, it probably has nothing to do with the shift from daylight saving time, Malhotra said, but is actually seasonal affective disorder. This condition, a form of depression, is often linked to cold weather and a dearth of sunlight and requires medical intervention if depression lasts for more than a few weeks.

People who live in northern places such as Boston, with longer, colder winter nights, are at greater risk for SAD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Symptoms usually start in the late autumn and include increased appetite, increased sleep and daytime sleepiness, and inability to concentrate, especially in the afternoon.

Treatment often involves antidepressants -- preferably started before depression sets in and continued through the spring -- psychotherapy, and/or possibly light therapy using a special lamp with a very bright fluorescent light (10,000 lux) that mimics sunlight.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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