Fatigue, grogginess, seasonal depression: these are just some of the symptoms many experience with the end of Daylight Saving Time.
If you woke up today in a bit of a daze, don’t worry; you’re not alone. I’m feeling it, too, but it’s not because I didn’t go to bed on time or that I skipped my morning walk and coffee. Daylight Saving Time ended early yesterday morning, and that’s why your smartphone said it was an hour earlier than the clock on your nightstand.
While fatigue and grogginess are totally normal immediately following daylight saving time, for some, the shift backward on the clock also signals the beginning of something more; the shorter days and longer nights may mark seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
How Daylight Saving Time Can Affect Your Health
The following are some of the common side effects of the end of daylight saving time:
- Seasonal depression (SAD)
- Hunger or cravings
- Inactivity or laziness
Daylight Saving Time starts when we “spring forward” each spring, setting the clock ahead by one hour from Standard Time during the summer months. It has been shown to boost the number of injuries, heart attacks, and car accidents during its arrival.
In the autumn, Daylight Saving Time ends and we “fall back,” setting the clock back one hour. Falling back doesn’t have the same associated dangers as the spring time shift; it is, however, the beginning of the long, tough season of winter. And although winter doesn’t officially kick off until December 21, the shorter days brought on by the end of Daylight Saving Time signify it’s unofficially underway.
The following are some ways the common side effects of the end of Daylight Saving Time may affect you and your health.
Hunger: I’m a big eater, and find myself particularly hungry in the first few days following setting my clock back. This has something to do with the fact that I’m adjusting to the reality that dinnertime was six o’clock yesterday, but my stomach is growling at five o’clock today. Of course, your stomach can’t tell time based on a clock but on how long it’s been since your last snack or meal. The human hunger hormone ghrelin is still operating on Daylight Saving Time and the hungrier you get, the more likely you are to suffer from cravings for carbs or less-than-healthy foods. It might take a couple of days to adjust, so in the meantime, to ease the transition and ensure you don’t give into cravings, have a little snack with a bit of protein in it to tide you over between meals. One example may be hummus and carrot sticks.
Laziness: It’s hard to get up and motivated once the clocks change. Although it’s only an hour, it can be a big shock to your body. If you found yourself struggling to get off the sofa on Sunday, you were not alone; I was there too! Your body takes some time to adjust, so try to put some extra effort into getting up and getting active, even if it’s dark out.
Grogginess, Disrupted Sleep Cycle: Moving your clocks in either direction, even if only by an hour, has the potential to significantly disrupt your sleep cycle. Because your natural time cue—light—sets your sleep/wake rhythm for the day, the change can lead to some grogginess throughout the day. Fortunately, this should only last for a day or so and you’ll be able to get back in sync. Maybe going to bed a bit earlier tonight can help the process.
Seasonal depression (SAD): The colder temperatures, shorter days, and general lack of exercise can take a real toll on the body, resulting in seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression. As far as winters go, for people who live in a cold climate and are more susceptible to depression, this time of year marks a period when you need to put a little extra effort to fight the effects of winter, including getting more exercise, getting some sun or supplementing your vitamin D intake, and lowering your risk for depression.
Tips to Deal with Daylight Saving Time Changes
Get More Vitamin D: Less sun exposure means you can’t get adequate amounts of vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in your health, both physically and mentally. If you live in an area that’s losing sun hours and becoming cold, meaning multiple layers and the least amount of uncovered skin is necessary, make sure to get a vitamin D supplement and take 400–1,100 IU per day. A deficiency in your “sunshine vitamin” levels can put you at greater risk for seasonal depression, weight gain, and inactivity.
Avoid Winter Sedentary Behavior: Staying active is also important. Winter is notorious for sedentary behavior and excess eating, which can lead to metabolic and cardiovascular problems. These problems can be exacerbated, and can even become deadly if you have to deal with the remnants of a big snowfall. Some of the best ways to stay active in the winter are through household chores, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, and neighborhood or mall walks.
Enhance Your Mood: Lastly, winter can lower your mood, especially if you’re lacking in sun exposure and vitamin D. SAD is a type of depression that commonly affects people during the winter months. Those diagnosed with seasonal depression experience symptoms like low energy, carb cravings, weight gain, and a decreased sex drive. A good way to offset seasonal depression is to purchase a fluorescent lamp and sit with it pointed on you as you eat breakfast. It can boost your serotonin levels and help improve your mood.
Who Is at Risk for DST Change Symptoms in the Winter
Everybody is susceptible to Daylight Saving Time’s health effects, especially those common symptoms of grogginess and fatigue, but some individuals may be more susceptible to more significant symptoms like seasonal depression.
SAD can affect anyone, but people who have an existing depressive condition are at an increased risk. If you struggle with depression or other mental health disorder, talk to your healthcare professional about further potential treatment(s) during the winter months to boost your mood and overall health during the difficult season.
If you stumbled upon this article and it piqued your interest, you’re likely looking for ways to improve your health and ditch the grogginess, fatigue, or seasonal depression you’re experiencing as a result of the end of Daylight Saving Time. Following the above three tips is a simple way to boost your health and counteract the effects of winter and the end of Daylight Saving Time safely and naturally.
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Sources for Today’s Article:
Breus, M.J., “How Sleep is affected by time changes,” WebMD web site; http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/coping-with-time-changes, last accessed October 29, 2015.
Kermalli, S., “How daylight changes affect your health,” CBC News web site, last updated November 2, 2012; http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/how-daylight-changes-affect-your-health-1.1235591, last accessed October 29, 2015.