As established by the Uniform Time Act of 1966, daylight saving time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November, with the switchover taking place at 2 a.m. local time. This year, the states that observe daylight savings (which is every state except for Hawaii and most of Arizona, as well as parts of Utah and New Mexico administered by the Navajo Nation) will "fall back" on Nov. 7 at 2 a.m. While many simply see this as gaining an hour of sleep on Sunday, there are various lasting effects that this time change will bring, both mentally and physically.
The harmful impact
Integrative medicine physician and wellness expert Dr. Taz Bhatia explains that when we set the clocks back, we’re also adjusting our internal clock and throwing off our circadian rhythm.
“Our circadian rhythms, or the flow of when we sleep and when we’re awake, dictates so many different processes in the body,” says Bhatia.
When our circadian rhythms are thrown off, our sleep cycles become inconsistent, our weight is less regulated due to a change in insulin, and the risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack increases.
Judy Ho, a licensed clinical and forensic neuropsychologist, says that experiencing one less hour of light each day can heavily impact one’s mood, causing us to experience more depression and sadness.
That aligns with a 2020 position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advocating for the elimination of seasonal time changes in favor of a year-round standard. “An abundance of accumulated evidence indicates that the acute transition from standard time to daylight saving time incurs significant public health and safety risks, including increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mood disorders, and motor vehicle crashes,” the statement reads. There are 19 states currently seeking to eliminate the time change, but they need federal approval for any such action.
How to adjust to less sunlight
So what can we do to cope with these changes? During the day, it’s crucial to take advantage of any kind of sunlight, whether it’s indirectly through a window or through a sun lamp as light therapy has been proven to work wonders on mood and sleep.
With less sunlight during the day, we also receive less vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin.” We can, however, make up for the lack of vitamin D in other ways. It's important now more than ever to exercise regularly, as it helps with the endorphin release and boosts our mood, says Bhatia.
Get on a sleep schedule, stat
Ho recommends establishing a calming nighttime routine that involves putting away all devices, especially blue light devices. To combat sleep deprivation, people should go to bed earlier, but not too early.
“You don’t want to go to bed too early just to make sure that you’re in bed by a certain hour because then you might be awake for longer than you need to be,” Ho explains. “Then the bed becomes associated with anxiety and stress.”
Since 2021 has been anxiety-inducing for many, Bhatia points out that our threshold for anxiety and depression is lower right now.
“When we have additional disruptions like disruptions to our sleep cycle, disruptions to the amount of light we're getting in when we're awake, it’s just one more factor in an already really tough year for so many people,” she says.
Ho reiterates how beneficial it is to maintain social connections on a daily basis with friends and loved ones.
“Even a brief interaction like that can bring you a lot of positivity and feeling of community when you need it most,” she says.
— Video produced by Jenny Miller
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