Daylight Saving Time was passed into law in the US by the Uniform Time Act of 1966. The concept was meant to help us by mirroring waking hours to sunlight and conserving energy. Yet, switching back and forth is detrimental to our mental wellness. In fact, changing our clocks twice a year is linked to increased health consequences, such as heart attacks and strokes.
But I like that extra hour to snooze!
The end of daylight saving time does not cause mental illness. However, the loss of an hour of sunlight can cause a decrease in our serotonin and melatonin levels. This increases symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. At this time of year, we become more sedentary, spending less time outside and more time doing activities such as watching TV.
Sleep cycles become disrupted. Even one hour in the shift to our body’s internal clock can trigger insomnia. Our sleep-wake cycle is very delicate; minor changes can impact when we feel tired and wake. This shift can have severe consequences on mood, increasing depression and anxiety. One study has reported that depressive episodes increase by 11% when daylight saving time ends.
How can you protect yourself?
Try a few of these tips to help support your mental wellness.
- Maintain a sleep routine. Prepare ahead of daylight saving time ending. Each night of the weekend before the clocks turn back, go to bed one hour early. This gives your body and sleep cycle a bit of time to adjust ahead of your work or school week starting. This also ensures your get that recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep!
- Take a morning walk. Try to maximize your time in the sun. Take a walk in the early morning sun to help counter the lack of daylight when you finish work. More natural light can help to maintain your internal body clock, reducing sleep disturbances and increased depression. Plus, exercising first thing in the morning increases your body temperature. It gets your body moving for the day, improving wakefulness.
- Light therapy. Invest in a good sunlight lamp and use this for about one hour per day. These lamps mimic the sun’s natural rays and can stimulate all the feel-good chemicals that the sun helps our bodies to produce. Light therapy is best done in the morning.
Promoting our mental wellness requires us to be proactive. Plan ahead for areas of risk that may harm our mental health. Practicing good self-care at this critical time in the year can prepare us to avoid “falling back.” We take charge against risks of increased depression, anxiety, or just when we want to improve our energy levels by having a plan. You’ve got this! But if your mood overwhelms your ability to function, reach out to a mental health professional for support.