Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting the clocks forward by an hour during the summer months and then turning them back again in the fall. This is done to use natural daylight more efficiently. We gain an hour in November to have more daylight in the mornings, while we lose an hour in March to have more daylight in the summer evenings. The fall season started on September 23rd this year in the Northern Hemisphere, which was the day of the autumnal equinox.
This year, on November 5th at 2 a.m. local time, we will turn our clocks back by an hour. This time change happens twice every year and affects almost everyone in the United States, except for a few exceptions.
In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which standardized the length of daylight saving time from March to November. Daylight Saving Time always begins on the second Sunday of March each year and ends on the first Sunday of November.
Why does daylight saving time disrupt our body, sleep, and mental health?
Studies indicate that the act of adjusting our clocks bi-annually can result in a range of health implications. Among the two seasonal shifts, moving the clock forward by one hour can cause more disturbance to our bodies. This alteration of one hour can disrupt our circadian rhythms, which are our body’s internal clock. These natural 24-hour cycles regulate important functions such as appetite, mood, and sleep.
Circadian rhythms are largely influenced by the amount of light we get exposed to. The hour transition in the spring initially causes darker mornings and lighter evenings. This can affect our mood as we may receive less light in the morning, which can decrease the hormone levels that make us feel happy, called serotonin. On the other hand, exposure to light later in the evening can make it harder to fall asleep as it delays the production of the hormone that helps us sleep, called melatonin.
Adjusting to the new time after Daylight Saving Time can be challenging for many people. During the first few days or even a week, individuals may experience difficulty in going to bed earlier or waking up later than usual, which can lead to sleep deprivation. According to a study, on the Monday following DST, the average person gets 40 minutes less sleep than on other nights of the year.
Disrupted sleep can cause fatigue, grogginess, and lack of focus. DST-related poor sleep can worsen depression, anxiety, and SAD.
Daylight saving shifts are more disruptive than jet lag.
Have you ever felt groggy or tired when the clocks change twice a year? Well, you’re not alone. These changes can actually affect your sleep more than traveling across different time zones. Surprisingly, when we travel, our brains can adjust to the new time zone, but they can’t do it instantly when the time changes. So, to prepare for daylight savings, try to get as much natural sunlight as possible. This will help your body’s natural clock adjust to the new time. Remember, it takes time to adjust to a time shift, so try to give yourself as much time as possible to prepare.
Tips on how to manage your mental health during DST
Managing your mental health and ensuring consistent sound sleep during Daylight Saving Time (DST) can be challenging due to the shift in your daily schedule. Here are some tips to help you adapt and maintain your well-being:
- Gradual Adjustment: Start adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before Daylight Saving Time begins or ends. Gradually shift your bedtime and wake-up time by 15-30 minutes daily until you’re aligned with the new time.
- Maintain a Consistent Schedule: Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Going to bed and waking up simultaneously every day helps regulate your body’s internal clock.
- Limit Naps: If you need to nap, keep them short (20-30 minutes) and early in the day to prevent them from affecting your nighttime sleep.
- Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment: Make your bedroom comfortable and conducive to sleep. Ensure it’s dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Get Exposure to Natural Light: Spend time outside during daylight hours, especially in the morning. Exposure to natural light helps regulate your body’s internal clock and improves sleep.
- Wind Down: Engage in calming activities in the evening, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques.
- Seek Professional Help: If you continue to struggle with sleep or experience significant mental health issues, consider speaking to a psychiatrist for guidance and support.
Remember that adjusting to the time change during DST can take time, and it’s essential to be patient with yourself. The key is to be consistent with your routines and prioritize sleep and mental health. If you find that your sleep or mental health problems persist, consult a healthcare professional for more personalized guidance.
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Who is Dr. Nibras?
Dr. Sohail Nibras is a double board-certified psychiatrist in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry. He completed his education at Saint Louis University and the American University of Integrative Science. He excels in treatments based on psychiatric care and therapeutic sessions and has experience treating dual psychiatric and substance use disorders. He is an assistant professor at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He serves as an attending psychiatrist at Texas Children’s Hospital. He trains future psychiatrists and engages in scholarly research projects.
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