How DST Can Affect Your Mental Health
The Daylight Saving Time (DST) in some states has already ended. However, some people are still affected by the impact it has brought to their lives. They started to notice the shortening days as time passed by. According to Dr. Gary Brandt, a family physician of the Oregon Medical Group, DST can also significantly impact one’s mental health. People became more conscious of their mental health since the pandemic. Decreasing the daylight hours could intensify its adverse effects.
How do these factors lead to generalized anxiety disorder and other health conditions? Let’s find out.
The Circadian Rhythm and Its Significance
Dr. Brandt mentioned that Daylight Saving Time could affect one’s health. It’s because it forces you to spring forward by advancing the clock for one hour. But it is not only the tools that tell time that become advanced since you also need to adjust your body clock. Although DST might end in your area, it would take some time to reset your 24-hour natural cycle.
Whether It is losing or gaining an hour, DST has an impact on your circadian rhythm. It refers to the 24-hour cycle that is part of the body’s internal clock. The circadian rhythm plays a vital role in carrying the necessary body functions and processes. Among these is the sleep-wake cycle. It synchronizes with the master clock of the brain. Several factors influence a person’s master clock, but what dramatically affects it is the light and day cycle.
As mentioned, Daylight Saving Time can affect your body clock. For instance, losing one hour can make you sleep deprived. Lack of sleep can cause problems not only to your mental health but also to how you perform in school or at work. If the circadian rhythm is disturbed, it can lead to mental health problems and aggravated sleeping problems.
Adverse Effects of Daylight Saving Time
Aside from affecting your mental health, Daylight Saving Time can also lead to other adverse effects. Among these are as follow:
Increases Daytime Sleepiness
A study published in 2015 aimed to identify the adverse effects of Daylight Saving Time on adolescents' sleep and vigilance. The researchers utilized a natural experiment design in assessing the baseline and post-DST differences. These factors were linked to both the objective and subjective sleep measures, including actigraphy, sleep diary, sleepiness scale, and psychomotor vigilance testing.
There were a total of 40 high school students enrolled in the study. Only 35 of them had completed the research. They were tested during the school days immediately preceding and following DST. The result showed that sleep duration declined by an average of 32 minutes on the weeknights post-DST, confirmed by sleep diary analysis. Not only that, but the vigilance deteriorated, and increased daytime sleepiness was also demonstrated.
In conclusion, the early March DST onset has negatively affected sleep and vigilance in high school students. Among the adverse effects include increased daytime sleepiness. Although larger-scale evaluations of sleep impairments related to DST should be conducted to confirm and provide more evidence, this 2015 study only showed that Daylight Saving Time transitions could disrupt your body cycle.
Leads to heart attack and stroke
According to health experts, the transition caused by Daylight Saving Time can lead to severe health conditions like heart attack and stroke. It is because, during DST, your sleeping pattern is affected. Your sleep duration decreases by 15-20 minutes. Although it might look like no big deal, your sleep cycle's continuous disruption can pose health risks.
In terms of Daylight Saving Time, Beth Ann Malow, M.D., Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development, and professor of Neurology and Paediatrics in the Sleep Disorders Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center explained:
“It’s not one hour twice a year. It’s a misalignment of our biological clocks for eight months of the year. When we talk about Daylight Saving Time and the relationship to light, we are talking about profound impacts on the biological clock, which is a structure rooted in the brain. It impacts brain functions such as energy levels and alertness”.
Tips to Maintain A Healthy Circadian Rhythm Despite DST
There is no doubt that Daylight Saving Time has an impact on your circadian rhythm. Experiencing challenges in resetting your body clock can lead to insomnia and other sleeping problems. That’s why it is essential to help your circadian rhythm be in its optimal function. Besides, there are ways on how you can minimize the adverse effects of disturbed sleeping patterns. Here are some practical tips on how you can keep a healthy circadian rhythm amidst Daylight Saving Time:
A lot of people love to drink coffee. There is nothing wrong with it as long as you know your limits. If you are getting troubled with sleeping, it would be better to avoid drinking too much coffee and other drinks with caffeine. It is because caffeine is one of the common stimulants that can keep you awake. You may find it challenging to sleep at night if you drink a cup of coffee before bed. Avoid caffeine so that you can quickly get into sleep and prevent the disruption of your circadian rhythm.
Avoid light exposure at night.
Exposing yourself to artificial light before going to bed can make it difficult for you to sleep at night. It is because light exposure can keep you awake and disrupt your sleep cycle. To maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, avoid light exposure at least two hours before sleeping. Turn off the lights or use sleep masks if you are getting trouble with sleeping. Besides, it is also advised not to use your phone if you are getting ready for bed. It is because gadgets also have a blue light that can keep you awake.
According to Sleep Foundation, the natural light from the sun can reinforce the strongest circadian rhythm. That’s why make sure to wake up early in the morning and expose yourself outdoors to enjoy the sun’s warmth. Do this in the morning since the sun’s rays are harmful in the afternoon because of the sun's ultraviolet rays. You may also enjoy a morning stroll or perform meditative practices in the park.
Getting regular exercise is not only good for your circadian rhythm but also for your overall health. It can boost your mental and physical power, giving the energy you need. Do some stretches early in the morning or follow an exercise routine. You can find a lot of exercise videos on Youtube that can keep yourself active. Regular exercise is one way to avoid the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.
Taking a nap offers many health benefits such as relaxation, improved mood, and increased alertness. However, there are specific rules to follow when napping. It is advised to nap for 10-20 minutes only. Why? It is because napping for a longer period can make you feel groggy, decreasing your motivation to perform your tasks.
- Strictly follow a sleep schedule.
Since Daylight Saving Time requires states to add or decrease one hour in time, it is essential to follow your sleep schedule despite the time strictly. This way, you can avoid disrupting your body clock. Since several factors can affect your sleep cycle, you can follow the tips mentioned earlier to better sleep quality.
Since Daylight Saving Time can affect your body clock, Dr. Brandt suggests that people should have enough rest, exercise regularly, and eat nutritious food to improve their overall health. Better social relationships can also improve your emotional and mental health. Therefore, try to keep in touch with your loved ones. Visiting your doctor for a general wellness consultation is also advised. Following the mentioned tips can help you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm despite Daylight Saving Time in your area.