The clocks go back an hour at 02:00 AM Sunday morning, providing an extra hour of much needed sleep. “As many as 30 per cent of people in society are chronically sleep deprived,” says Dr. Charles Samuels, the Medical Director of Calgary’s Centre for Sleep & Human Performance.
“We need to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night to function properly, and many of us try to get by on far less.” Dr. Samuels says a big part of the problem is we work too much and do not devote enough time to recovery and rest. “I see a lot of people who are causing significant harm to their health with too much work and not enough sleep.”
Another common problem this time of year is Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). Dr. Samuels says as many as 5-10 per cent of North Americans suffer from the disorder and it is more common in northern regions. “The shorter days and extended periods of darkness mess up the body’s natural circadian rhythms,” he says. “We need sunlight or other bright light to help adjust those rhythms — or body clocks — in order to stay awake and alert.” Disturbances in melatonin and serotonin due to longer hours of darkness are believed to play a role in sleep and winter depression.
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