We all know the expressions “spring ahead” and “fall behind” when it comes to setting the time on our clocks, but have you ever thought about what the extra hour, or the loss of an hour, does to your health?
We sat down with Dr. Ranginwala, medical director for the Mercy Health – Springfield Sleep Center, to see if it’s in fact your health that’s falling behind this autumn.
Why is Daylight Saving Time a thing?
Before we get into the health ramifications, it may be important to know why we even have a Daylight Saving Time.
It always seemed to be about farmers wanting an extra hour of daylight, and then the tradition just stuck. Something like that, right? Turns out – not really. It was simply a war time conservation effort that just kind of stuck around until it was enacted into law and standardized in 1966.
What Daylight Saving Time does to your body
“Falling behind” actually means returning to the real, true time, effectively ending daylight saving time. You get “an extra hour of sleep” during the fall – but don’t get too excited. Any disruption to your circadian rhythm can have some adverse reactions to the rest of your body.
“The circadian rhythm is a very sensitive system, and it can fall out of homeostasis easily during daylight saving time,” Dr. Ranginwala shares. “A normal change in bedtime, such as jet lag, can affect the body on average at least one day per hour changed. When the change is due to daylight saving time, the effects for some can be felt for far longer.”
Cluster headaches and a decrease in appetite can be common symptoms of “gaining” that extra hour of sleep.
What Daylight Saving Time does to your mood
Sunlight is one element that can boost your serotonin level. An increase in serotonin can elevate your mood. Unfortunately, in the fall, while you get the extra hour of sleep, you lose an extra hour of sunlight.
Having a routine can help ease feelings of stress and anxiety throughout the day. However, losing or gaining an extra hour can feel like it’s throwing your day out of whack and increase those feelings.
“The changes in light and dark can not only lead to mood swings, but also issues with insomnia,” Dr. Ranginwala shares.
Tips for avoiding negative effects from Daylight Saving Time
Dr. Ranginwala has some simple tips for making it easier to handle the time change.
“It is important to be kind to your sleep hygiene during these transition periods. Avoiding electronics, heavy exercise and overstimulation prior to bedtime can help ease the symptoms of insomnia. Increasing light exposure and prioritizing self-care can increase serotonin and improve mood swings associated with daylight saving time.”
Some additional tips:
- Try gradually waking up at different times – or going to bed slightly earlier and earlier – in the days leading up to the time change. That way, the hour doesn’t feel as jarring.
- Eating a nutritious breakfast when you wake up will provide your body with great energy for the day.
- Get plenty of time in the sun – take a walk, enjoy your coffee outside or exercise outdoors.
- If you have children, try to adjust them to the new sleep schedules ahead of time in a gradual way.
Learn more about the sleep medicine services we offer at Mercy Health.