As we head closer to winter, many US citizens are preparing for their days of sunlight to get a little bit shorter, due to Daylight Saving Time (DST).
Daylight Saving Time is the practice of resetting the clock each year, with Americans pushing the clock forward on the second Sunday of March, so the light from the sun is then used for longer.
However, once the seasons change, the clocks are then set backward an hour, meaning that people get an hour less of sunlight in their everyday lives. In the US, daylight saving time ends on the first Sunday of November, which will fall on 5 November this year.
As a result of the clocks being pushed backward at 2am on Sunday, most people will get an extra hour of sleep that day. And even though the time is only changed by an hour, it’s still a change that your body has to get used to.
Here are some ways to adjust to daylight savings time this year.
Adjust your sleep schedule before and after the clocks change
Similar to how you would do before adjusting to a new time zone when travelling, you may be preparing to see a change in your sleep schedule due to daylight savings. As noted by the Mayo Clinic, when you know that a change in time is coming – even if it’s just by an hour — you could adjust your “sleep and wake times in small increments so your body can transition gradually”.
For example, the publication specified that you could “shift your bedtime and wake time in 15- to 30-minute increments”.
Once the clocks go back on 5 November, your bedtime will essentially be an hour earlier than you’re used to, and you could end up feeling tired at 9pm instead of the usual 10pm. Despite the grogginess that you could also feel during the day due to the time change, the Cleveland Clinic urges people to avoid taking long naps when adjusting to Daylight Saving Time.
“If you have to take them, take them early and for no longer than 20 minutes,” sleep specialist Harneet Walia, MD, told the publication.
Stick to your daily schedule despite time change
The Cleveland Clinic specified that, despite the fact that your clock has gone back an hour, you should be consistent with your daily schedule. For example, if you typically have breakfast at 7am, you should continue doing that. “Be consistent with eating, social, bed and exercise times during the transition to Daylight Saving Time,” the publication added.
Walia also said that, when you wake up, it’s important to expose yourself to bright light in the morning, as that is when we get an extra hour of daylight.
Speaking to The New York Times, Hayley Wilkes, an integrative nutritionist, suggested that people could prepare for Daylight Saving Time the week before. For example, you could shift your meal times forward by 15 minutes, so your body is already used to eating later on in the day.
She also said that as the days get dark sooner, our eating habits could change, adding: “Some people will find themselves a little sleepier in the afternoons, a little snackier.”
Wilkes noted that if you’re hungry at strange times in the evening, due to the changing of the clocks, you should opt for foods with protein or fat, along with a complex carbohydrate containing fibre, so your blood sugar won’t rise.
Prioritising your mental health as it gets darker sooner
Over the years, research has found pushing the clock back an hour due to Daylights Saving has impacted mental health. In 2017, an analysis of 185,419 Danish people found an 11 per cent increase in depressive episodes during the shift from summer time to standard time.
The dark days during the winter have also led to seasonal depression, with symptoms ranging from “feeling sad or depressed” or “losing interest in things previously enjoyed,” as noted by Healthline. The publication specified that there are different ways to manage the condition, such as light therapy, which involves “sitting in front of a light box each day when you wake up”.
You could also opt to go out for a walk earlier in the day, when it’s still bright out, as opposed to using light therapy.
Another way to manage mental health challenges during the days of minimal sunlight in the winter is by taking on new activities. Speaking to The New York Times, Katie Hill, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at wellness company Nudj Health, noted that these activities could range from doing a cooking class to taking an art one.
She also encouraged people to “think about the positives that you can add to your life, rather than just focusing on what you’ve lost as the summer leaves”.
“Winter can be a wonderful time for restoring ourselves, exploring new hobbies and experiences and emerging in the spring more interesting, healthy and satisfied,” she said.
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