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Insomnia? Blame it on Our Axis

As strange as that may sound, sleep researchers have discovered that our sleep patterns are related to the way the Earth's axis shifts. As the Earth travels around the sun on its annual course, one hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, getting more than its fair share of light and warmth, while the other is titled away and thus has winter weather. It's the reason why going off daylight saving time may have given you insomnia.

In LiveScience.com, Wynne Parry quotes sleep scientist Anita Valanju Shelgikar as saying, "It's truly easier to go this way than in the other direction. It does give you an extra hour in the morning to sleep, but it can throw people off, primarily because people say I can stay up a lot later because I have an extra hour in the morning to sleep and ultimately, they sleep deprive themselves."

The arrival of winter presents a more difficult transition than the shift back, since, as the days shorten, a gap widens between our internal body clocks and the natural day. This becomes more of an issue the farther north we go, since days become even shorter there.

Daylight saving time is an attempt to take advantage of the annual fluctuation in the amount of time we see the sun above the horizon. This fluctuation happens because the axis around which the Earth rotates doesn't stand straight relative to the sun, but is tilted 23.5 degrees. Daylight saving time, first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1874, is an attempt to deal with this situation, by shifting the national schedule forward an hour in March to take advantage of lengthening daylight hours, and back again in November as daylight shrinks.

So if you can't sleep, what can you do about it? Shelgikar recommends exposing your eyes to light as soon as you get up. If you stay in a hotel with "blackout" curtains (or have them in your bedroom), open them to expose the sheers before you turn in for the night. While natural light works best, artificial light in your bedroom can help.

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