UNITED STATES – November 5, 2023 – Sunday November 5th was the time for North Carolinians and most Americans to ‘fall back’ by setting our clocks back one hour with a return to Standard Time and stress our bodies for weeks. It is known that light impacts the 24-hour natural biologic clock in our brain (known as circadian rhythm). Light is the signal that the day as started. Our 24-hour internal clock regulates sleep, mood, appetite, and other biological processes. Time change upsets our biologic clock by the changes in the light and darkness cycle. Daylight is longer in the summer and shorter in the winter the further you are from the equator. During the summer months, daylight may extend to the early morning hours when most people are still sleeping prompting an action to move the clocks forward by one hour so we can wake up in the morning when the sun rises and have an extra hour of daylight for outdoor leisure activities after the traditional workday. This is known as Daylight Saving Time (DST). Most countries in North America and Europe have adopted DST during the summer months. In the U.S., almost all of the states have DST between March and November. Changing the clocks twice a year is associated with many negative health effects according to a recent Harvard health report. According to Dr. Phyllis Zee, a sleep researcher at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, a one-hour change in time can affect the amount and the quality of sleep no matter whether we ‘fall backward’ or ‘spring forward.’ However, gaining an extra hour of sleep is usually easier on the body than losing one in March. Fatigue and health problems can occur from sleep loss for 1-2 weeks after the time change. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of stress hormones. The body’s processes of sleep, being awake, digestion, and immune function are affected. There are more hospital admissions due to heart attacks, strokes and irregular heartbeat. Other health problems include more fatal car accidents, mood swings, and seasonal depression. People are more prone to having accidents because sleep disturbances can affect balance and staying alert. “We’ve discovered that people have about 40 minutes less sleep. Because we’re already short on sleep to begin with, the effects of even 40 minutes are noticeable,” according to Christopher Barnes, a sleep researcher, as told to Mattress Clarity, an organization that reviews sleep products and promotes sleep health. A person will be better prepared for the time change by minimizing changes to their day/night rhythm. In an ABC News interview, Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell, a pediatrician and certified sleep specialist, said that “your body needs time to readjust to a new light/dark cycle.” After gaining an hour in the fall, many daytime workers no longer enjoy a few sunny hours after work. Schedule some outdoor activities to get some natural sun light before work. This will help get your body in syn with the rising sun. While outdoor light works best, artificial light that mimics outdoor light can help. The biologic clock will benefit from light as long as the exposure is at the same time each day. To prepare for losing an hour in the spring, go to bed earlier for a few days before the changeover. Develop a consistent bedtime routine to help achieve a sound sleep and reduce your sleep loss from the time change. Here are some tips to prepare for the time change:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time
- Stop screen time on computers, phones, and television for at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. The screens emit a high level of blue light that can negatively impact sleep by affecting your natural biologic clock.
- Stop caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and snacks at night
- Limit all intense activity, like physical activity, listening to loud music, or watching an action movie before going to bed and add a relaxing routine
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org