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Why Daylight Saving Time Can Be Hard on Our Health

At 2AM Sunday, we observed the end of Daylight Saving Time by turning our clocks back one hour. The good news is that we gain an extra hour of sleep. The bad news is that extra hour might make you sluggish, sad, fat and prone to traffic accidents. In addition, the change back in the spring, where we “lose an hour”, has been linked to a rise in heart attacks.

Who would think one hour has that much power? WebMD says that time change in either direction changes our circadian rhythm – the body’s natural, hardwired ability to feel alert or sleepy. That hour is enough to disrupt our internal clocks, and enough of a disruption for a bipartisan group of California lawmakers to push for an end to the practice of Daylight Saving Time. (The bill was defeated in the senate.)

According to a study done by AAA, “When the clocks change – whether falling back or springing forward – people’s sleep cycles are interrupted, and when sleep cycles are interrupted, they tend to be drowsy,” said Mary Maguire, director of public and government affairs for AAA of Southern New England. She also noted that some police departments report a 10 percent increase in crashes after the time change. That’s because driving drowsy can be as dangerous as driving distracted or under the influence. All affect reaction time.

The shorter days and earlier nights are even harder on some. It has been linked to a kind of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is triggered by lack of sunlight. It typically goes away after six to eight weeks after the time change, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Symptoms can include fatigue, low energy, sadness and cluster headaches. Please talk to your doctor at Riverside Medical Clinic if you are experiencing any kind of depression. There is help available.

If you feel like the reduced sunlight causes you to crave more carbohydrates, you’re not alone. Researchers believe it’s a primitive impulse we share with animals to fill up in anticipation of winter. Carbs also promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. Be careful of reaching for simple carbohydrates though, such as a cookie or white bread. It can cause a quick spike in blood sugar levels followed by a sugar crash with more fatigue and irritability – not good if you’re already suffering with SAD. Snacking in moderation on more complex carbs that come from whole grains, pretzels and popcorn, however, can relieve some of the symptoms of SAD.

How to Adapt

Light is our body’s principle cue for what it’s supposed to do. Try to expose yourself to as much light during waking hours as possible. The opposite is true at night: try to avoid bright light. Darkness naturally creates a sleep-friendly environment, enhancing your ability to fall asleep. If you need help adjusting, add calming rituals in the evening. Taking a hot bath, drinking decaffeinated herbal tea, meditating or doing yoga can help your body start to relax earlier.

While standard time helps to make for a brighter morning commute, please use extra caution in the evenings. In California, it will start to get dark in the 4pm hour, which affects your drive home. Watch for children and animals outside at dusk.

If you still have questions about adjusting to the time change, feel free to call Riverside Medical Clinic. The staff is happy to help.

Riverside Medical Clinic is the largest provider of ambulatory care in the Inland Empire. With multiple locations, you’re sure to find a clinic close to you. Visit www.riversidemedicalclinic.com to see. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 951-782- 3602.