Can Daylight Saving Time Affect Your Health?

For many, Daylight Saving Time simply means remembering to change the clocks and tweaking your sleep schedule. However, one doctor told that the change in time can have a larger influence on your life than most people think.

Occurring at 2 a.m. Sunday, November 6, this season’s time change will add an additional hour to the day. Dr. John Sharp, a psychiatrist and neuropsychiatrist at Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and author of The Emotional Calendar, said that seasonal changes can greatly affect the public’s outlook and mood.

“The fallback hour adjustment is something that causes much more destruction than people give credit for,” Sharp said. “It’s not just an extra hour of sleep, it’s more of a fast-forward into winter.”

Sharp said that even though the time change is only an hour, it can really cause people to not feel their best and give them a feeling of jet lag.

“It can cause a sort of circadian misalignment that can take two to three weeks to fully adjust to,” he said.

With days getting darker earlier, Sharp suggests making a to-do list for activities after work ahead of time.

“Any plans you have for running errands or going to the gym after work require much more effort and determination. It’s much better to plan more carefully and not just rely on how you feel, especially when it is dark out,” he said. “Figure it out in advance and stick with the plan.”

In addition, Sharp says in the weeks after Daylight Saving, some may feel like they have a bigger appetite.

“Eating more during this time is not the answer. People need to stay on an eating schedule and keep up healthy habits,” he said.

However, Sharp said there are ways to better acclimate yourself to the time change.

If you are having trouble sleeping, he suggests taking some melatonin in the evening. In contrast, if you find yourself feeling lethargic, Sharp said there is nothing wrong with adding an extra caffeinated beverage during your day.

“It’s OK to give yourself a little boost in this adjustment,” he said.

One sure way to better adjust to the time change is to start going to bed 15 minutes earlier starting four days before Daylight Saving, adding an additional 15 minutes each night.

“By the time you are facing the time change, you will be better prepared. Anybody can re-set their internal clock by 15 minutes a night,” he said.

A word to the wise? Sharp warns that just because it gets dark earlier doesn’t mean it is OK to start happy hour earlier – or Daylight Saving could leave you with a hangover.