I’m often asked how daylight saving time affects your health — and if it does at all. The answer is yes, but there are easy ways to counteract it.
We turn the clocks back on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 2 a.m., your phone will automatically adjust in the middle of the night, so you might not even notice the shift. But if you wake up feeling off, you’re not alone. Here are my tips on how to seamlessly make the transition into daylight saving — including how to keep your kids on schedule — and what you need to know about potential health risks.
It’s much less clear how the time change affects us in the fall, versus in the spring. What I know for sure is that anytime you alter your clock, it can affect your ability to sleep, your mood, and how you feel overall throughout the day.
In Finland, scientists found that hospitalizations for stroke increased nearly 10 percent within two days of setting your clocks forward or back. But another study conducted in Michigan reported that the number of heart attacks the Tuesday after daylight saving actually dropped. However, there’s not enough research to draw any conclusion. Regardless, I recommend taking some small steps to adjust your circadian rhythms to the time change so you can still feel your best at such a busy time of the year.
My plan for adjusting to the time change
The problem with changing our clocks is that it throws our circadian rhythm out of whack. Circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock. It’s set by the light and keeps our body running efficiently. I have a two-step plan that will help your body adjust to pushing the clocks back.
Starting tonight, I want you to go to bed 30 minutes later than you normally do. For those of you with kids, I know it’s tough, but try to get them in bed later as well. Do the same thing again on Saturday. Go to bed 30 minutes later tonight (Friday). This will help your body adjust to the change.
Next: intermittent fasting. Starting TONIGHT, I want you to eat your last meal before the sun sets. And tomorrow, I want you to do the same, and make sure you get 16 hours before your last meal on Saturday and your first meal on Sunday. Some researchers believe that intermittent fasting can help your body reset its circadian rhythm faster, so you are better able to adjust to the new sunrise time.
What can you do to benefit mental health?
In the fall, losing an hour of evening light can actually affect your mood. Hospitals report that complaints of depressive symptoms actually increase around 11% right after we set our clocks back for the fall.
Why does this happen? Sunlight actually acts on our eyes and our skin to increase our serotonin — the happy hormone. If we spend less time in the sun, we get less of that hormone that helps us feel good.
To counteract this change, I recommend sun lamps. They’ve been shown to improve mood, likely because these lights can increase the levels of serotonin in our bodies without giving off any UV radiation. You get all the benefits of the sun without the fear of its damaging effects on our skin.
Vitamin D levels do vary by seasons, and levels do drop in the winter. If you’re worried about this, there are over-the-counter vitamin D supplements you can take to boost your levels. In addition, I recommend eating more salmon, shrimp, and wild mushrooms to help boost your levels naturally.
Does temperature change affect sleep?
It turns out, the perfect temperature seems to be 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit for most people. When lying in bed trying to sleep, your body temperature decreases to help initiate sleep — and the temperatures above can actually help facilitate this.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, in addition to the cooler room temperature, you should try wearing socks. This will help dilate your blood vessels faster, causing you to lose heat and lower your body temperature. The faster you can lower the core body temperature, the faster you will fall asleep. In fact, wearing socks has shown to help you fall asleep faster by nearly eight minutes.