The clocks fell back over the weekend, which means you’re technically getting an extra hour of sleep. (If you didn’t already set your clocks behind an hour, this is your reminder to do that.) However, with daylight savings ending, this also means that there are some potential health risks that Dr. Ghahary says people should be aware of.
Despite gaining an extra hour of sleep with the end of daylight savings, there is a chance that your sleep patterns could still be affected – especially if you’re someone who already consistently doesn’t get enough sleep; with things like social interactions, memory, learning, and your overall cognitive performance being affected – although these are things that tend to have more of an impact as a result of springing the clocks forward as opposed to falling back. When the clocks fall back, some individuals will either say they feel better rested, still feel sleep deprived, or may simply not notice any difference at all. If sleep is something you’re struggling with, then you should also pay close attention to certain habits. For example, if you’re watching television or if you’re using your computer, tablet, or on your smartphone late at night. There is also less light in the day when clocks fall back, and this absence of light can actually cause you to feel sleepier earlier – meaning you’ll either feel like you want to leave work early, or even want to go to bed earlier than you normally would. Less light can also cause one to feel irritable.
It’s not all bad, however. According to a study, turning the clocks back an hour has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack by as much as 21% (as opposed to a 24% increase when the clocks spring forward.)
There are also certain things we can do to prevent these time changes from wreaking havoc on our bodies, including changing our diet and getting out more during the daytime. Many individuals say they rely on alcohol in effort to help them fall asleep, but studies have shown that this can actually hinder your sleep pattern rather than help it, as alcohol disrupts the natural way in which your circadian rhythm functions. Furthermore, alcohol can also have a negative impact on your body in other ways, including liver function. While you might find that alcohol relaxes you, you still won’t get the quality of sleep you need. Things like carbohydrates and sugar should also be avoided as much as possible, as they can drain your energy and do a number on your metabolism as well as your glucose production.
To get used to the change in time, Dr. Ghahary also recommends exposing yourself to more light during the daytime. If you spend more time indoors during the fall, make sure to have your curtains and/or blinds open during the day. It’s also a good idea to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, even if it’s a bit cooler out, as fitness is something that’s important for our health on many different levels. Getting regular physical activity can help to elevate your serotonin levels, which can improve your mood, can give you additional Vitamin D intake through the sunshine, as well as give your immune system an extra boost. Once it starts to get dark out, try to avoid the use of really bright lights inside your home as this may actually help you fall asleep faster.
As mentioned, things like smartphones should be avoided when you’re trying to sleep, too. While it can be tempting to want to check your e-mails or respond to text messages late at night, try to wait until daylight hours to do that, as the more time you spend using devices such as these, the more trouble you will have falling asleep – and this can happen whether you set the clocks forwards or backwards.