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Larry Weltman: minimizing the effects of daylight savings time

Despite the fact that most of us enjoy gaining an extra hour in the month of November thanks to the end of daylight savings time, the slight time shift has been known to wreak havoc on your daily schedules and internal rhythms. Add to that the effects of reduced sunlight hours, which in some people can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it’s easy to see why so many of us feel a little out of whack in November.

Because our Circadian Rhythm — our internal guiding system that regulates sleep, energy and mood– is closely tied to sunlight, the loss of an hour of sunlight in November can be especially difficult to overcome. An out of kilter Circadian Rhythm can affect our length and quality of sleep, our general mood and the amount of energy we have to perform our daily tasks.

While the hour shift may only throw our internal rhythms off, it can take anywhere from one day to a full week to fully adjust to the time shift. If you are like me, you don’t have week to wait around till you feel like your old self. For those of us who want to take a more proactive approach to getting ourselves back in line, there are a few things you can do to aid your body in its adjustment.

Before the time shift

Whether going back in the fall or moving forward in the spring, in the week leading up to the time shift begin adjusting your sleep routine. In the fall, add roughly 15 minutes a day to your sleep pattern so you aren’t up an hour earlier after the change. Being properly rested is important in reducing the effects of the time shift.
Gradually reducing your intake of caffeine can also help you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night.

After the time shift

As I mentioned above, our internal rhythms are strongly governed by the sunlight, so ensuring you are getting the most out of daylight hours is important. This can be facilitated with a
morning jog or walk that gets you out in the sun.

Exercise is also a natural mood booster. When the effects of the lack of sun or the time change begin to make you feel a bit down, head to the gym or pool and get a natural endorphin boost.

Maintaining your exercise schedule during the time shift can also help maintain sleep schedules in addition to regulating your mood, making the adjustment much easier. You can also add energy boosting foods to your diet in the weeks leading up to and following the time change.

Even though experts say the shift in spring is harder to overcome, it is important to remember that the time change in November has been linked to an increase in pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents. If you are going out for a morning or evening jog, make sure you wear reflective, bright colored clothing so you are visible to passing drivers.