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Shine on! Keep daylight saving time from affecting your health

Shine on! Keep daylight saving time from affecting your health

“Fall back, spring forward.” The mechanics of daylight saving time are simple. As the saying goes: In the fall, the clocks fall back an hour, and in the spring, the clocks spring forward an hour.

Many of us, though, feel a familiar sense of dread as the second Sunday in March rolls around each year. That day, we lose an hour of sleep—and if we’re lucky, we might recover from the effects a few weeks later.

Our LCMC Health team is here to help you put a positive spin on the time change with tips for good health.

How the time change affects your health

While moving our clocks forward in March “adds” an hour of daylight in the evening, it takes that hour of daylight out of the morning. After the time change, most people are waking up and starting their days when it’s still pitch-black outside, which affects the body in many ways.

Our bodies rely on visual cues to help us establish natural wake and sleep cycles. When it remains dark longer in the mornings, there’s no obvious clue to the body that it’s time to wake up and get going, making it more challenging to get physically and mentally started each day.

With daylight saving time beginning each March, the time change has been associated with an increase in the risk of mood disturbances, suicide, workplace injuries and even traffic accidents.

The well-known effects of the time change on our health are one reason why many people advocate for making daylight saving time permanent. The Sunshine Protection Act of 2021, for example, proposed to observe daylight saving time year-round beginning in November 2023. That bill didn’t advance, though, so the time changes occur twice each year, at least for now.

4 tips for keeping your days sunny and your health strong

The good news is that the start of daylight saving time is a clear sign that summer will be here soon. In the meantime, you can make the time change less hazardous for your health and your mood with a few key steps:

1. Clean up your sleep habits. Good sleep hygiene, or best practices, can help you get quality sleep. Aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep nightly. Keep your bedroom cool and dark, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, remove electronics from the bedroom, and establish a bedtime routine.

2. Let the sunshine in. Get outside as much as possible. As your body acclimates to daylight saving time, expose yourself to sunlight to give your body energy. Head out for a hike or open the windows and blinds in your home office.

3. Fit in a nap. If you’re feeling particularly fatigued, you may benefit from a 20- to 30-minute nap. Try not to snooze longer as this nap length should boost your alertness while helping you avoid post-slumber drowsiness.

4. Schedule a checkup. A visit with your primary care provider can help you keep an eye on your overall health and talk through any health challenges you’re facing, including the residual effects of the time change.

Sometimes sadness and anxiety linger long past the start of daylight saving time. If your symptoms stick around, trust an LCMC Health behavioral health specialist for help.