Each year on November sixth, daylight saving time comes to an end, setting clocks back by one hour. This means an earlier sunrise in the morning and sunset in the evening, which may contribute to a few different types of health issues in many people throughout the United States.
When daylight saving time ends, sunlight is absent for a greater part of the day for most people. This can be disruptive to the body’s circadian rhythm (the cycle of physical, mental, and behavioral functions that operates on a 24-hour cycle). While the effects of this may often be as simple as feeling hungrier or drowsier at an earlier time of the day, it could also lead to more significant, long-lasting problems such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression, is typically characterized by a lack of energy and motivation in many people, but can lead to symptoms as serious as suicidal ideation in some cases. It can last as long as five months and affects up to three percent of the United States population.
There are steps you can take to avoid symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and other adverse effects that accompany the end of daylight saving time. These include:
- Adjusting your sleep schedule to increase sunlight exposure: Going to bed and rising earlier will allow more time spent during daylight. Be sure to get enough sleep each night and wake up at a set time each morning.
- Focusing on a healthy diet and regular exercise: A balanced diet and exercise are beneficial for both your physical and mental health. This remains true when it comes to coping with an adjusted daily schedule, as both of these can improve your mood throughout the day and counter-act increased drowsiness and symptoms of depression.
- Investing in a light box: Light therapy is an artificial means of providing your body with ultraviolet light. It can help with adjusting to a decrease in available sunlight. Before purchasing a light box, ensure that it’s designed to treat SAD, that it’s bright enough, that it protects your eyes, and that it can fit securely and comfortably within one or more spaces that you frequently occupy.
If you’re experiencing negative mental health symptoms as daylight saving time comes to an end, you can schedule an appointment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Mental Health Clinic by calling (718) 206-5575.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.