How do the clocks going back affect our health?

The clocks turned back on Sunday October 30 this year. (Malvestida on Unsplash)
The clocks turned back on Sunday October 30 this year. (Malvestida on Unsplash)

On Sunday, October 30, we set our clocks back by an hour, saying goodbye to British Summer Time (BST) and hello to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

While it gave us an extra hour’s sleep on Sunday night, it means shorter days and longer nights have now arrived.

As the cost of living and energy crises continue to put pressure on our finances, many have spoken up about the negative impact the clock change will have on their energy bills, as families need more lighting and heating in the evenings that will now get darker earlier.

But, it’s not just our finances that may suffer from the clock change. A number of experts highlight that it has health implications, too.

Here is everything we know.

How do the clocks going back affect our health?

The changing of clocks has a number of consequences on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Although a difference of an hour doesn’t sound like much at first glance, experts say that it’s still a major change for our bodies.

Our body uses environmental cues such as the sunrise and sunset to schedule our hormones. So, the sudden shift in these confuses our schedule and takes a while for us to adjust to.

Therefore, you might struggle with your sleep schedule or quality for the first few days or weeks.

The clock change may impact the quality of your sleep for while. (Pexels)
The clock change may impact the quality of your sleep for while. (Pexels)

Health company Thriva’s Clinical Operations Associate, Dr Nadja Auerback, suggests limiting your caffeine intake and exposing yourself to as much natural light as possible to help your body adjust.

They also suggest avoiding late-night screen time and alcohol consumption.

Another common consequence of shorter days and longer nights is a mood disorder known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The depressive condition commonly impacts people throughout the autumn and winter months, with its key symptoms including lethargy, low mood, irritability, poor concentration, and sleep problems.

While the exact cause of the condition is unclear, scientists believe that it is due to people being exposed to less sunlight, which has a knock-on effect on several important chemicals that regulate our mood, appetite and sleep.

According to Dr Auerback, research has shown that young females who live far from the equator and have family histories of mood disorders are most at risk.

A significant number of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder during the colder months. (PA Archive)
A significant number of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder during the colder months. (PA Archive)

To combat SAD, they recommend bright light therapy to make up for the shortage of daylight during winter or dawn simulation products that mimic sunrise, making it easier to start the day.

They also suggest using a vitamin D supplement to support your body’s chemical schedule, exercising regularly, sticking to a balanced diet, and spending time outdoors.

Apart from the sleep disruption, chemical imbalances and mental health consequences, digital Pharmacy company Medino’s lead pharmacist, Giulia Guerrini, notes: “ A study even found that stroke rates were up to 8%* higher after the first two days following the clocks changing.”

If the clock change’s impact on your physical and mental health are noticeably impacting your life quality, ability to cope or overall wellbeing, you should contact your GP and seek help.