Daylight Savings and Your Health

Daylight Savings and Your Health | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Clocks are set to spring ahead this Sunday, but just that one-hour difference can sometimes be enough to have a serious impact on your health. The good news, however, is there are certain things you can do to decrease the affects associated with Daylight Savings.

As clocks go forward, we lose an hour of sleep. For some, it might not have any impact. For others, that one-hour loss of sleep can not only be difficult to get used to, but have other unfortunate effects on one’s health. Along with feeling groggy and as though you didn’t get a good night’s rest, Daylight Savings can also lead to mood disruptions and irritability. These changes in mood can affect the memory, concentration levels, as well as performance at school or work. A Danish study also found that there was an 11% increase in depression during Daylight Savings. Sleep deprivation associated with Daylight Savings has also been shown to be the cause of an increase in workplace injuries and car crashes. This is because when we are sleep deprived, our motor skills can be somewhat diminished and we may not be as quick to react – i.e. paying attention to the road, signs, yellow/red lights, etc. If you are sleep deprived, family physician Dr. Ali Ghahary says the best thing to do is avoid getting behind a wheel and allow your body as much time as it needs to get back on track.

To make Daylight Savings easier, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends patients set their alarms to wake up a little earlier then they normally would. For example, if you normally set your alarm for 9 AM on a weekend, try setting it for 8:30 AM instead. Something as little as a 30-minute difference can actually help your body adjust to the time change and make it easier for you to get out of bed during the workweek. It’s also important that you eat a healthy meal, especially breakfast, as breakfast is another way of telling your body it’s time to start the day. It’s also a good idea to expose yourself to more light – at least during the initial few days after Daylight Davings. Light supresses the secretion of melatonin, so it’s important that you be outdoors or in well-lit areas during the normal waking hours as much as you can, but also important that you avoid bright light when it’s dark outside. For example, turning on a light if you happen to wake up during the week hours of the morning can be enough to throw you off balance. If you absolutely need light in order to see and get around, try installing a nightlight or have a timed light that goes on and off at specific times in your home, as this can either advance or delay your sleep cycle.
If you’re someone who has trouble falling asleep, it’s also important that you make sure you surround yourself in a sleep-friendly environment and also reduce things like caffeine, alcohol, and exercise several hours before bedtime. Instead, try calming rituals like meditation, taking a warm bath, and even wearing earplugs or eye masks.