Getting an hour back on Sunday following the end of Daylight Savings Time can seem like an extra bonus to our weekend. However, this seemingly positive time change actually can impact our bodies in ways that we might not expect.
“The human body operates with a natural 24-hour internal clock, which is our natural circadian rhythm,” said Cynthia Fisher, D.O., Family Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh. “Changes in exposure to light and our sleep schedule can throw it off.”
That may mean our concentration, attention and ability to get quality sleep may be negatively impacted as our bodies adjust to the time change, said Dr. Fisher.
Those effects can have negative impacts beyond us just feeling a little bit off. During the fall, the increase has been attributed more often to behavioral changes, including increased alcohol use and staying out later on the Saturday prior to the time change.
“Sleep is a valuable mechanism in keeping our bodies and minds functioning well, helping us to recharge and stay healthy,” Dr. Fisher said. “We need to value it and maintain it as an important factor in our health, just as we do our nutrition or exercise.”
Ideally, people should go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. For the upcoming time change, people can help their bodies adjust by going to bed about ten minutes later each day in the week leading up to the end of daylight savings time.
Infants and small children also are greatly affected by the time change. It’s especially important to begin to adjust their eating and sleeping schedules a few days before the time switch to make the process less traumatic for them and their caretakers.
Other ways that both children and adults can help their bodies adjust to the time change include:
- Slightly move the times of other regular daily activities to help your body’s circadian adjust – eat dinner a little later, for example.
- Stay well-rested and ensure you get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.
- Limit screen time at night; put down your tablets, phones and computers for at least the last hour before bed.
- On the Saturday night of the time change, set your clock back early in the evening and then go to bed at the regular time.
- On Sunday morning, go outside for some sunlight and exercise.
Dr. Fisher said most people should adjust to the time change within about a week.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Some people, however, may experience greater impacts at the onset of the changing time and the loss of daylight hours. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, also known as seasonal depression, can begin at this time of year as the hours of daylight diminish.
People who have bipolar disorder may be more susceptible to experiencing seasonal affective disorder, Dr. Fisher said.
“It’s natural to have days where we feel down or less motivated,” she said. “When those feelings begin to disrupt our activities or our ability to get through the day, it’s time to talk to your provider about it.”
Some symptoms of SAD may include:
- Feeling consistently tired, listless, unmotivated or without energy most of the day.
- Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed.
- Feeling sad or hopeless.
- Weight gain and cravings for carbohydrates.
- Difficulty concentrating.
“If people are experiencing any of these symptoms, we want people to have open conversations with their care teams,” Dr. Fisher said. “There are treatments for SAD, including phototherapy, which involves using a light box for a small amount of time each day. Medication or counseling can be options as well.”
This year, the end of Daylight Savings Time occurs on Sunday, Nov. 5.