Daylight Savings Time Fall Back Can Present Challenges
For most of us, the end of Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, November 2nd, means the end of barbecue season and outdoor evening activities—and the start of driving home from work in darkness.
For others, the transition from Daylight Savings Time is not that simple, and this slight shift in time can take its toll.
Experts agree that adjusting the time can disrupt the body’s natural cycle and lead to a variety of issues that affect both how we feel and how we function. “Any time you change the body’s clock, even by an hour, it throws off the hormones in your body,” according to Dr. Shelby Harris, Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center of Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. “Our biological clocks are so well set that even an hour’s difference in light exposure can create changes in the body.”
Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, two common complaints around Daylight Savings Time, can result in drowsiness and irritability which can lead to overeating, decreased energy and exacerbated symptoms of depression for those who are already struggling. For some, the increase in darkness can lead to symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) a type of depression triggered by seasonal changes that can last for months. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you are concerned about how you are feeling.
But turning back the clock doesn’t have to be cause for concern. The end of Daylight Savings Time also means that it’s light outside when most of us wake up in the morning, which is beneficial for our biological clocks. According to Michael Decker, Ph.D., spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “When light stimulates a certain part of the brain first thing in the morning, it can make us more vigilant throughout the day, and boost moods in the long run. Getting that bright light in the morning is absolutely key to health and performance and everything that goes with it.”
For those of us who are not early birds, the news is still good. Experts agree that exposing ourselves to light as often as possible during the waking hours can help keep our energy levels up when the sun starts to set earlier. By getting outside during lunch or taking a quick walk around the block, we can help maintain our natural body cycles as we adapt to the change in time. Equally important is the need to wind down in the evening by creating an atmosphere of calm that is conducive to sleep. Keep the bright lights off, turn the cell phones, laptops, and other devices off—and if you haven’t already— consider the National Sleep Foundation’s healthy sleep tips to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake feeling rested.
Like most people, I will miss the extended sunshine that Daylight Savings Time offers. But if we welcome the fall back with healthy habits and a plan to make the most of each day, we just may find ourselves transitioning more easily.
South Shore Mental Health