sunlight

You remembered to turn back your clock last night to end Daylight Saving Time. Are you feeling any effects this morning?

People sometimes say that they got “an extra hour” of sleep, but really what you did is mess up your circadian rhythm. Much research has shown that this can disrupt our biological clocks and impact our sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, eating habits and more.

That biological clock of circadian rhythm regulates many important biological processes, such as hormone production and sleep patterns, and we know that it is very much controlled by external cues in the environment. The big influence is light.

You have probably seen articles in recent years about shutting down lights and screens that emit light (TV, computer, phone, tablet) in order to let our brain know it is night and time to go to sleep. The fact that many of us do not do this leads to the popularity of sleep medications from melatonin and the many pain relievers plus “PM” (antihistamines to make you drowsy) to prescription sleep aids.

Changing sleep-wake cycles by an hour has an effect on that internal clock in our brain and it can change the chemicals (like melatonin) that affect sleep, metabolism, mood, bodily functions and productivity.

This morning, do you feel sleepy, listless, a bit stressed? Do you feel an hour’s worth of better rested? It may take a few days for any negative effects to show up.

Daylight saving time-changes have been found to result in higher rates of automobile and workplace accidents, more roadkill accidents (the deer don’t change their clocks) and even a slight increase in heart attacks and stroke amongst those already at a higher risk.

Suggestions to deal with the end of DST include NOT using caffeine and other stimulants to adjust. To avoid the Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD) that comes on with shorter days get outside in the sunlight as much as possible. Maybe an extra lunchtime walk. Alternatively, there is light therapy to compensate, but getting outside is easier and cheaper.