Daylight Saving Time ends the first part of November when we turn our clocks back one hour for the Fall time change and then supposedly gain back that time we lost next spring. Personally, I’m not a fan of the Fall time change because it means that it will be dark by 5:30 PM (some areas are dark by 4:00 PM) making it feel like the “shorter” days are dragging on forever. One of the gifts of the Fall time change is that, for some people, it encourages an earlier bedtime which allows the body added rest and repair time.
However, for many people, the end of Daylight Saving time ushers in a time of depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), cluster headaches and other concerns such as drowsiness and irritability.
Short History of Daylight Saving Time
It was Benjamin Franklin’s idea. He actually suggested Daylight Saving Time back in 1784, as a way to economize on sunlight and burn fewer candles during winter mornings and nights; however, the practice did not become steadily official in the United States until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, with the same intention of saving energy. Since that time, Congress has expanded the length of Daylight Saving Time three times, once in the 1970s during the country’s energy crisis,
once in the 1980s, when April got brought under the daylight saving umbrella, and finally in 2007. Today, Daylight Saving Time goes from March into November.
“An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn… We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.” Winston Churchill comment about Daylight Saving Time
Your body’s circadian rhythms tick away throughout the body each day, affecting hormones, brain wave activity, cell regeneration and other biological activities such as hunger levels and the desire for sleep. The body systems with the most prominent circadian variations are the sleep-wake cycle, the temperature regulation system, and the endocrine system (hormones). When these rhythms get thrown off-balance, even by just one hour, your body may definitely let you know.
One of the main health concerns as we adjust to the “Fall-Back” time change is that many people will not, or cannot, take advantage of this precious extra hour of sleep. The end result is that this shift in the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle can disrupt sleep for several days or more. And any type of disruption in sleep can bring down the body’s immune system.
Researchers found that the body’s circadian clock controls an essential immune system gene in mice — a gene that helps the body ward-off bacteria and viruses. “People intuitively know that when their sleep patterns are disturbed, they are more likely to get sick,” study author Erol Fikrig, professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine, said in a press release. “It does appear that disruptions of the circadian clock influence our susceptibility to pathogens.”
10 Tips to “Fall Back” Healthy
Advance Preparation for the fall time change. If 10 p.m. is your regular bedtime, 9 p.m. is going to feel more like normal following the time change. Staying up 20 minutes past your normal bedtime on the Friday and Saturday before falling back may help you stick to your schedule later in the week.
- Pre-Schedule on Saturday. If you don’t have a strict schedule on Saturday, turn back your clocks during the late morning or early afternoon. Shifting your daily activities, such as meals, to an earlier time will help your body adjust more smoothly.
- Don’t fall into the trap of staying up later on the Saturday night before the time change because of that “extra hour.” Most usually overdo this and actually end up losing sleep. Try to avoid building up a sleep debt in the days before the change.
- Limit all alcohol, caffeine and nicotine the day before the time change. These substances can impact your ability to fall asleep and they can also trigger headaches especially if you are prone to cluster headaches during the time change.
- Get as much sunshine as you can during the coming weeks. Try to take a walk during the day or spend your lunch break outdoors to boost your mood and energy levels. 20 to 30 minutes of daily sun can make a huge difference. If you have low Vitamin D3 levels, now is the time to begin supplementing with a vegan-friendly Vitamin D3.
- Exercise. Mild exercise, such as a walk in the late afternoon or early evening, can help keep you from going home and crashing after work. Exercise actually releases the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain which helps your body advance the clock and adapt to the time change.
- Light Therapy. Many people, especially those with seasonal affective disorder, find that using a light box can help. Those with bipolar disorder should consult a doctor first.
- Melatonin. Melatonin can help realign your body’s rhythm if you find yourself having difficulty in sleeping. The use of melatonin to promote restful sleep is well documented. Studies of low dose, oral melatonin in healthy adult volunteers showed that time to sleep onset, stage-2 sleep, and REM sleep decreased without affecting the percentage of time in REM sleep or alertness after waking. In addition, evidence also indicates improved sleep benefits for children as well. Use as directed.
- Ditch the naps. Although a power nap during the day is tempting, don’t. If you get tired, take a walk or eat a healthy snack.
- Adjust lighting. Adjusting the amount of light and dark in your home/office can help streamline your body’s circadian rhythm, making the transition to a change in time less difficult. Opening the blinds in the house as soon as you get up in the morning, and then dimming the lights at the same time every evening will help your body relax and know the time is coming for sleep. I highly suggest turning off computers, TVs and tablets at least one hour before bed.
- Glycine. Glycine (also known as 2-Aminoacetic Acid) is an amino acid and a neurotransmitter. Glycine can affect your sleep in a couple of ways. Glycine helps lower your body temperature. Glycine works to increase blood flow to the body’s extremities, which reduces core body temperature. A slight drop in body temp is a key part of the body’s physical progression into sleep. A recent study of the effects of glycine as a supplement showed it triggered a drop in body temperature and at the same time helped people both fall asleep more quickly and spend more time in REM sleep. Other research shows that supplemental glycine may help you move more quickly into deep, slow wave sleep. Glycine increases your serotonin levels. Serotonin has a complex relationship to sleep. Among other things, serotonin is required to make the sleep hormone melatonin. In people who have difficulty sleeping or sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, increasing serotonin levels can help restore healthy sleep patterns, and encourage deeper, more restful and refreshing sleep. Research shows oral glycine elevates serotonin, reduces symptoms of insomnia, and improves sleep quality. Other studies suggest it may help you bounce back to healthy sleep cycles after a period of disrupted sleep.
BONUS: Sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene describes actions you can do to create a sleep-friendly environment thus enhancing your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping soundly. Good sleep hygiene can include reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol at least three to four hours before bedtime, turning down all lights two hours before bedtime, creating calming rituals before bed to gradually relax yourself (taking a stress relief bath for example), making your bedroom cool and dark and wearing ear plugs and eye masks. Also important is going to bed and waking-up at the same time every day – including weekends. According to an Australian study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, to fall asleep faster, you might want to consider eating healthy starchy-carbohydrates before bedtime. Carbs which quickly raise blood sugar (those with a high glycemic index) may hasten sleep, especially when eaten four hours before bedtime, the researchers report. Such carbs may also boost tryptophan and serotonin, two brain chemicals involved in sleep, the study suggests.
Time to Perform a Fall Time Change Home Preparedness Checklist
Safety professionals have long used the start and end of Daylight Saving Time as reminders for performing recurring safety tasks. Try to do the following on the weekend before the fall time change:
Check and replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. Ensure they are working properly and replace the batteries. As the cold sets in and many start up their gas-fired furnaces, fireplaces, portable unit heaters and the like for the first time, carbon monoxide poisoning risks increase dramatically during this time of year. Replace any smoke alarm unit that is older than 10 years. Replace any CO alarm unit that is older than 5 years.
Prepare a winter emergency kit for your automobile. Such kits are a lifesaver if you get stuck in bad weather while driving. They should include items such as: warm clothes, blanket, flashlight, batteries, water, non-perishable snacks, shovel, flares, reflective hazard triangle, jumper cables, cat litter or sand for traction, ski hat and gloves.
Check to see if your fire extinguishers need recharging. Check the small gauge at the top of the extinguisher. If the needle in that gauge is in the green, chances are, the extinguisher is okay. If it is in the red, you need to have the extinguisher recharged.
Resources and References
Adam C. Silver, Alvaro Arjona, Wendy E. Walker, Erol Fikrig. The Circadian Clock Controls Toll-like Receptor 9-Mediated Innate and Adaptive Immunity. Immunity, 2012 DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2011.12.017.
Afaghi, A. High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2007; vol 85: pp 426-430. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.2.426.