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How to Spend that 'Extra Hour'

Friday, 23 October 2009

The clocks go back this weekend.. our hectic lives gain a whole extra hour! So let's take the opportunity that comes but once a year. We speak to Psychologist Donncha Hanna about the top tips for spending the extra hour!

The bank holiday weekend is coming up and we are getting an extra hour!

Back ground
74 countries around the world are changing their clocks back from 'daylight saving time' or 'summer time' to standard time over the next few weeks.
A New Zealand zoologist first proposed daylight saving time in 1895 but the idea is much older - in Ancient Roman times hours were different lengths. An hour in the summer was much longer than an in the winter!
Daylight saving time really became popular during the First World War as a way of saving energy. People get up earlier to make use of the longer days so we need less electric light.

What you can do to feel good about your extra hour:-

1. Set some goals.?
Most of us spend longer programming the DVD player or planning for dinner deciding what we want out of life. Goal setting is one of the most useful and motivating techniques in business psychology but anyone can use it. Over 90% of studies show us than when we set specific and challenging goals we get more done and perform better. Sit down with pen and paper (it's important to write them down) and decide what you want to achieve out of life - it could be personal, material, financial, it doesn't matter. It's OK to a few drafts to decide what is really important to you. When you decide what you really want it's time to make some SMART goals:
. Specific
. Measureable
. Attainable
. Realistic
. Timely

Q Lend a hand

Studies have shown engaging in volunteer work or helping other people releases endorphins - the brain's natural feel good drug. There are hundreds of voluntary organisations across the country so why not get involved. If you need more motivation studies have shown that people who volunteer live longer and report better mental and physical health. One of the ways we think volunteering is related to these benefits is because people who volunteer increase their social networks.

3 Get some exercise
If you were told there was a magic potion to cut in half your chances of getting heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes and even some forms of caners you would probably want to take it -well it exists and it is called exercise! Adults should aim to get at least three 30minsutes session a week. Walking is the easiest way to start exercising - it is free and is suitable for all the family. Better still if you can exercise with a friend - exercise is a great way of building friendship and it also increases your commitment. Not only can exercise prevent physical health problems but research has shown it improve mood and self-esteem as well as reduce mild anxiety and depression. Try to build in it into your day; walking to the shops or school, taking the stairs instead of the elevators or lifts or going for family walks at the weekend.


4 Take a power nap

Most of us could do with getting more sleep. In the last hundred years average time we spend sleeping has fallen from 9 hours to under 7.5hours. One way to address this is take nap during the day. Most animals do it and a lot of cultures have siestas. It is not being lazy! Power naps can increase our alertness, boost our mental performance and reduce stress levels. Power napping won't affect how you sleep that night but it will make you feel and think better. It's best to take a nap around lunchtime and 20 minutes is plenty.


5 Dedicate the hour to 'me'..
We all know the saying that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and recent research confirms this is true. It is important for refuelling the body after waking but is also important for the brain. Unlike other parts of the body the brain only uses glucose from carbohydrates for fuel. Research has shown eating a balanced breakfast containing complex carbohydrates (such as bran flakes or wholemeal bread) can lead to improved memory, better concentration and more positive moods throughout the day. Breakfast also helps to stabilise blood sugars (which regulate appetite and energy); people who eat breakfast tend to be less obsess and less likely to develop heart disease or diabetes than people who do not eat breakfast.

Why can it some time for our body clock's to adjust to the extra hour:-
Circadian rhythms are very robust; it is even maintained if people are kept in the complete dark and do not what time it is. This means may take a week or more for people to get completely back in their routines after the hour changes.
Melatonin 'opens the sleep gate' normally around 11pm in most people; we normally fall asleep somewhere in this two hour period.
We can delay falling asleep but most of us will find it hard to fall asleep earlier (before the melatonin is present) - so we may find it harder than usual to fall asleep next week.

Benefits of the extra hour
Next Monday will have the lowest rate of heart attacks of any Monday morning all year!
When we sleep our heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormone levels are all fairly low but gradually rise in the morning to prepare us for waking. But as most of us use an alarm clock we don't wake naturally and the alarm acts as a stressors causing our heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormone levels to shoot up! This is worse on a Monday because we often take a lie in or don't use alarms at the weekend. This is why Monday morning is the most common time to suffer a heart attack!
As next Monday morning we will be effectively getting up an hour later we hopefully won't experience such a big jump and the rate of heart attacks will be lower


What can we expect?
The effect of the hour changing is the same as jet lag! As far as the body is concerned we are shrinking or stretching time.
Although we may get an extra in bed this weekend this can still lead to higher levels of stress and more disruptive sleep patterns.
This in turn can lead to an increase in car accidents and work accidents (especially in less experienced workers) so be careful on Monday morning!
Data from the past 30 years or so tells that the change in the hour will also have an effect on stock markets!


Our body clock
Circadian rhythms are very robust; it is even maintained if people are kept in the complete dark and do not what time it is. This means may take a week or more for people to get completely back in their routines after the hour changes.
Melatonin 'opens the sleep gate' normally around 11pm in most people; we normally fall asleep somewhere in this two hour period.
We can delay falling asleep but most of us will find it hard to fall asleep earlier (before the melatonin is present) - so we may find it harder than usual to fall asleep next week.


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