I have lived on this earth for 25 years, which means I have experienced 25 daylight savings time fallbacks, but I will never get used to it. When the time changes in the spring, most of us rejoice with gratitude for another hour of daylight and sunny days to come. However, when we lose an hour of sunlight each November, for most, tired eyes and grumbling abounds.
I am writing to you five days after the time change this year and most of us are still not used to the change. This year, I decided to use the change to try waking up earlier in the morning. So far, I am just tired, but maybe I will get used to it.
With less sunlight during the day and less time for our bodies to absorb Vitamin D, many people experience something called, seasonal affective disorder (SAD). You may not just be experiencing the winter blues, but a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons and begins and ends at about the same time every year, symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter. Common symptoms of SAD are feeling depressed most of the day, every day, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, having low energy, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite or weight and more.
According to The Mayo Clinic, the specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. However, they have some hypotheses: Your biological clock, or circadian rhythm, may be thrown off by the time change. The reduced level of sunlight during the autumn and winter months may cause SAD. The decrease in sunlight during these seasons may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
Other causes may be a drop in serotonin levels due to reduced sunlight. Serotonin is the brain chemical that affects mood and might play a role in SAD sufferers. Also in relation to sunlight, the change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is not just a winter disease, the minority of sufferers experience it in the spring and summer. Symptoms of spring and summer SAD include trouble sleeping, poor appetite, weight loss or agitation and anxiety. While fall and winter SAD symptoms include oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain and tiredness or low energy. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from SAD. They recommend seeing a doctor if you experience these symptoms for an extended amount of time.
Without any medical training or knowledge, I feel comfortable saying that it is normal, to a certain extent, to experience some of these symptoms, especially tiredness, after losing an hour of sleep due to daylight savings time changes. However, if any of these experiences persist or worsen, I urge you to see a doctor. I have a few friends who experience seasonal affective disorder and the symptoms can be brutal. Outside of medication, in my opinion, one of the coolest inventions to help combat these symptoms is a lamp that provides “light therapy.” These lamps provide the light that our bodies so desperately crave during this time of year.
According to Harvard Health’s study on these lights, “Light therapy entails sitting close to a special “lightbox” for 30 minutes a day, usually as soon after waking up as possible. These boxes provide 10,000 lux (“lux” is a measure of light intensity). That’s about 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting; a bright sunny day is 50,000 lux or more. You need to have your eyes open, but don’t look at the light.”
My friends that suffer from seasonal affective disorder swear by a combination of sitting with one of these lightboxes, forcing yourself to take walks outside, even in the cold, and trying to stick to a regular sleep schedule.
If you are one of the few people out there that prefer the winter, I am sorry that you get no benefit from this column. But, whether you just prefer warmer temperatures or someone who deals with seasonal affective disorder, not to worry; the time will change back on March 8, 2020, at around 2 a.m. So, let’s make the best of these, quite literal, dark times and before we know it, we will have our beloved sunshine back again.
— Contact Emily Rice at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice