Daylight savings time can be a mood killer. Just the thought of losing an hour of sleep is enough to make some people grumpy. Think for a moment, did you notice a negative effect on your mood when the sun started setting around 4 or 5 PM? Are you feeling less productive than you did just weeks prior? Has this change affected your sleep schedule?
When daylight savings time ends, we “fall back” an hour. This means that the sun sets an hour earlier and we wake up an hour earlier. For some people, this can be a hard adjustment to make. Our bodies are used to a certain light-dark cycle, and when that changes, it can throw off our internal clock. This can lead to a decrease in mood and an increase in anxiety.
There are a few reasons why the fall daylight savings time change can have a bigger impact on our moods. One reason is that we are already experiencing less sunlight in the fall and winter months. This can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that is related to changes in daylight. SAD can cause a decrease in mood, energy, and motivation.
Another reason the fall daylight savings time change can be difficult is because it can disrupt our sleep patterns. When we lose an hour of sleep, it can be hard to adjust. This can lead to fatigue and irritability. It can also make it harder to concentrate and make decisions.
Daylight Savings Time has been proven to affect those with pre-existing mental health conditions, specifically those more susceptible to anxiety and depression. The effects are seen both when the clocks are set an hour forward and an hour back. Even people who suffer from extremely mild cases of mental health conditions have been documented to be heavily impacted by this time change both mentally and physically. We see higher anxiety levels, more suicidal thoughts, and less motivation in many people this time of the year.
While we unfortunately cannot eliminate these impacts all together, there are simple tasks you can add to your daily schedule to combat these symptoms on your mental health. Adding some extra time in your schedule to go outdoors, especially soon after you wake up, can help to readjust your body and make up for some of the lost daylight towards the end of the day. Establishing a short exercise routine to your day, like taking a walk or having a dance party while you clean the house, can increase the amount of endorphins your body produces, the body’s ‘feel good’ hormone. Introducing clean greens and healthy eating to your daily routine has also been proven to have an incredible impact on the mind and body. Although the negative feelings we face tend to make us prefer isolation rather than communication, reaching out to a loved one to talk about your struggles can help you to feel supported and less alone in facing these difficult symptoms.
These activities are simple changes to make but their effects can make a meaningful impact! Although Daylight Savings Time affects many people and you are certainly not alone in feeling these changes, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if you find you need some help navigating your troubles and finding a treatment process that best works for you! But for now, drink your morning tea on the front porch, dance around your room like no one is watching, and grab a nutritious snack, and see the effect these things can have on your mental health… The time change just might not keep you down for long!
Samantha Morel, Ph.D.