As we set our clocks back and transitioned to Standard Time last weekend, experts are warning about the potential impact of Daylight Saving Time on mental health and seasonal depression. While the extra hour of sleep might be a welcome change for many, the decreasing daylight hours can take a toll on our well-being.
How Can Daylight Savings Affect Us?
Daylight Savings Time ends on the first Sunday in November, which means we gain an extra hour of sleep but also see the sun setting earlier in the day. This reduction in natural light can affect individuals in various ways, contributing to feelings of lethargy, mood swings, and even seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Seasonal affective disorder, often referred to as “winter depression,” is a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter months. It is associated with a lack of sunlight and can lead to symptoms such as low energy, changes in sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, and even feelings of hopelessness. The shift back to Standard Time can exacerbate these symptoms for those who are already susceptible to SAD.
What Can We Do?
Dr. Sarah Miller, a psychiatrist specializing in mood disorders, explains, “The sudden shift in our daily routines, coupled with the reduced exposure to natural light, can disrupt our circadian rhythms and negatively impact our mental health. This transition can be particularly challenging for individuals already struggling with depression or other mood disorders.”
To mitigate the effects of the time change and reduced daylight, experts recommend the following strategies:
Prioritize Exposure to Natural Light:
Spend time outdoors during daylight hours, even if it means taking a short walk during lunch breaks. Exposure to natural light can help regulate circadian rhythms and boost mood.
Maintain a Consistent Schedule:
Stick to a regular sleep and wake schedule, even on weekends. This consistency can help your body adjust to the time change more smoothly.
Engage in regular physical activity to boost your mood and energy levels. Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for SAD.
Consider Light Therapy:
Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves using a lightbox that mimics natural sunlight. This can be an effective treatment for SAD and help mitigate the effects of the time change.
Seek Professional Help:
If you find that your mood is significantly impacted by the transition to Standard Time, don’t hesitate to consult a mental health professional for guidance and support.
Written by GUADS intern Alexis, with contributions from publichealth.jhu.edu