The first Sunday of the month. There are over 70 countries all over the world that use Daylight Savings Time. That means that over a billion people are affected by the changes in time twice a year! Not only that, but the dates that Daylight Savings Time starts have also changed over the years.
But what happens to our bodies?
Over a 24-hour cycle, our bodies release chemicals that translate to the time of day. The time change affects our bodies. Ever noticed how going to bed late on weekends affects getting back on schedule on Mondays? The same thing happens when getting on an airplane and changing time zones. Changing time zone means adjusting to a difference in time. This same thing happens during Daylight Savings Time. Daylight Savings Time can disrupt our internal Circadian Rhythm – or our internal biological clock – and interfere with the amount of melatonin which our bodies produce for sleep. Melatonin is made by the body when there is a decrease in light playing a role in whether we feel sleepy or wide awake. When it is darker our body continues to release melatonin causing us to feel sleepy.
For adults and children
The transition of getting up an hour earlier can be difficult to adjust to. While getting used to change in their sleep pattern, most people react by feeling sluggish, tired and fatigued. Reactions to being tired can show as an increase in being seen as “cranky”, irritable, easily frustrated, less alert, a decrease in concentration and mood changes. This can lead to difficulties performing tasks that normally would not be as difficult – like doing school work, a job, or driving. Some studies suggest that there are more heart attacks brought on by the stress accompanying the change. (If you are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, the change in seasons and decrease in light can have an added impact).
Teens require an average of nine hours of sleep and if they haven’t slept long enough by going to bed too late, they feel “perpetually drowsy”. This affects their performance at school with their ability to pay attention and to learn.
What can be done to help adjust to this change in time?
It is very helpful to be proactive and prepared. Discussing the change ahead of time whether with family members, friends or colleagues. If your child has a lot of difficulty with transitions, talk to them about it. Remember, losing one hour may not seem like much, but it still affects our bodies and our routines. You might want to:
- Talk to the teacher at school, the school bus driver and with your spouse as appropriate to your situation. This helps everyone and the family get used to the idea that a change is coming.
- For some, getting clothing ready the night before, organizing everything that is needed for school or work is helpful.
- Going to bed earlier and giving some time for waking up completely in the morning increases alertness and mental acuity.
- Be prepared to feel tired, sluggish or fatigued when getting into the car and take a few extra minutes to look both ways before driving.
Even if you feel fine, others may not be as prepared as you are!
- Be prepared for having less daytime so having some activities ready can be helpful.
- Children still have a lot of physical energy that they may not use if they cannot stay out after dark.
Parents Try This
Making a list of some activities your child or children can do inside to get that energy out is helpful like:
- Play tag
- Make an indoor fort
- Play hide n’ seek
- Jump rope
- Do yoga
Or can you add going swimming after school, going to the basketball court, or ice rink in the winter? Your child or children can help with ideas then put them in a jar and have your child pick one every day. Just give them time to be physically active then time to wind down.
Adults need the same things, so looking into what is available in your community may be helpful. How about:
- Walking/jogging trails
- The YMCA
- Are there local swimming pools? Many motels are now offering swimming pool service for a fee (some even include the exercise room)
- Or look at adult education programs that involve exercise.
Finally, if there are symptoms of depression or any serious mental health concerns please contact a mental health provider for assistance. For those who are still interested in learning more I have attached the following articles:
Author: Cynthia Booker-Bingler, LCSW, Health Affiliates Maine
Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!
Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!