Daylight Saving Time got you down? You’re not alone. This past week, most Americans set their clocks back an hour and “fell back” to standard time. While Daylight Saving Time ushers in things we love — like the beginning of the holiday season — it also brings the shorter days of winter and less daylight.
If you’ve noticed that you feel out of sorts and experience more health problems around this time of year, you’re not imagining it. Daylight Saving Time affects your body’s internal clock and can trigger a myriad of health consequences. Here’s what happens to your body during Daylight Saving Time and how to fix it.
Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Internal Clock
Most of the problems we experience as a result of Daylight Saving Time are rooted in our Circadian Rhythm, our body’s internal clock. Your internal clock controls many of your body’s major functions — think sleep patterns, the release of hormones, and even hunger levels.
There’s also research that suggests there may be a correlation between cardiovascular risk and Daylight Saving Time. An article on Health.com reported that preliminary research from the American Academy of Neurology found that stroke rates are 8 percent higher in the days following both time changes compared to the two weeks before or after. Don’t panic, because WebMD has found that the spike in cardiovascular incidents is short-lived and easily remedied by taking extra precautions.
Those who suffer from cluster headaches may also experience more symptoms during Daylight Saving Time changes. Cluster headaches usually occur in bouts that affect one side of the head, causing severe pain and other irritating symptoms like eye pain and nasal congestion. If you suffer from this unfortunate affliction, prep for Daylight Saving Time and visit your doctor.
How to Fix It: In the grand scheme of things, Daylight Saving Time is a small change. Prep your Circadian Rhythm by adjusting your sleep schedule to make up for the loss, planning healthy meals, and getting plenty of exercise. If you’re dealing with a chronic illness like cardiovascular disease or cluster headaches, work with your physician to come up with a plan of action.
Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Sleep
Do you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Many Americans are combatting insomnia and distractions while falling asleep. Daylight Saving Time presents a challenge both in Spring and Summer because your body’s Circadian Rhythm is easily affected by the one-hour change. While this month’s “fall back” may feel like a welcome extra hour of sleep, it’s more likely that you’ll wake up earlier than you plan and suffer a few days of sleep loss.
As Greatist reports, if you’re one of those people, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is the culprit. The SCN is basically a central clock that regulates our body temperature and sleep-wake cycles. When Daylight Saving Time hits, the change in daylight throws off our internal clocks and can cause changes in our sleep patterns.
How to Fix It: Be prepared! As “Fall Back” approaches, change your schedule accordingly. Add a half-hour buffer to your sleep schedule starting two days before Daylight Saving Time. Set your alarm to get slightly more sleep the weekend leading up to the time change to keep your normal sleep schedule intact.
Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Mood
Beyond flaring up chronic illnesses and affecting your sleep schedule, the time change can also impact your mood. Studies have shown that switching back to Standard Time can trigger mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Not only that, but the loss of daylight cuts down on your Vitamin D levels, which can impact your energy level and bone health.
In fact, depression diagnoses have been found to increase in the early winter months following the time change. A recent study in Epidemiology reports that these spikes in mood disorders could be linked to the loss of daylight and lack of physical activity.
How to Fix It: Most importantly, see a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and mental illness. Other effective treatments include bright light therapy, like SAD lamps that mimic natural light. As much as possible, spend time outdoors during daylight hours through walks, bike rides, and winter sports.
How does Daylight Saving Time affect your health? If you have tips for combatting the winter blues, share them in the comments below!