6 Negative Effects of “Falling Backwards”
While you might look forward to that extra hour of sleep you get when daylight saving time ends, setting your clocks back an hour during the fall can have more negative effects than you realize. With a bit of planning, you can reduce the effects of “falling backwards” and actually spring into the coming season without major disruptions to your routines.
It’s Harder to Wake Up
When our eyes see light (historically sunlight), our brain produces serotonin, which helps us stay awake and feel refreshed. When our eyes see darkness, the brain reduces production of serotonin and secretes more melatonin, which makes us sleepy and helps us get into a deeper sleep. If you’ve been waking up in a room with sunlight streaming in each morning, you probably wake up ready to face the day. If you get the exact same amount of sleep but wake up in a pitch-dark room, you’re often ready to punch your alarm clock, reluctantly drag yourself out of bed, and stomp off the to bathroom, mumbling, stumbling and groaning until enough light hits you to help you start waking up.
Waking up tired can lead to sleeping longer on the weekends, which can lead to lethargy the rest of the day, and possibly weight gain. If you have more trouble getting out of bed in the winter, consider buying a sleep lamp you set like an alarm clock. At a time you predetermine, the light slowly begins to increase in brightness, helping you get out of the deeper sleep pattern that makes it difficult to wake up.
More Hazardous Driving
The fall time change also means you’ll be driving in the dark more often, especially if you commute to work or school. Water that would have normally evaporated in sunlight now becomes slippery ice. You are also on the road with groggier drivers, squinting through the dark. Be extra alert when driving, reduce your speeds and keep more space between yourself and other drivers during dawn and dusk hours.
Serotonin makes you feel “happy,” and decreased production of this important hormone for prolonged periods can lead to moodiness, anger, depression and other negative feelings. Make sure you have plenty of bright light in your work and living areas and take advantage of the sunlight you have during the day. Take a short lunchtime walk and plan outdoor activities during the weekends, when possible.
Decreased Vitamin D
Vitamin D does not occur naturally in foods (which is why many are fortified with this micronutrient), and our main, natural source of vitamin D is sunlight. The skin is the largest organ on the body, and where we process most of our vitamin D, and during fall and winter, it’s often covered. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much vitamin D you need, based on your age, sex and health history, and see if you need a supplement this winter.
When you have sunlight until 8 or 9 p.m. each night, it’s much easier to head outside after dinner for a jog, power walk, game of tennis, bike ride or inline skating. When it’s pitch black and chilly at 6 p.m., it’s easy to use that as an excuse not to exercise. Use our tips for working out in cold weather (KRISTIN, LINK TO OUTDOOR EXERCISE ARTICLE HERE) and create a schedule for outdoor activity, and you’ll be more likely to stay in shape and avoid adding pounds during the fall and winter. You can increase your physical activity by creating an indoor exercise program that doesn’t require you to leave the house. (KRISTIN, LINK TO INDOOR EXERCISE ARTICLE HERE)
Decreased Home and Personal Security
Burglars are less likely to try and break into a home when it’s light out and when people are home. During the spring and summer, it’s usually light until you get home from work or school. After the fall time change, your house might be dark and empty while you’re away. Purchase light-sensitive outdoor floodlights and put your indoor lights on timers to keep would-be thieves off their game. Make sure your workplace, tennis club, school or other places where you frequently park adjust their parking lot and walkway lights the day of the time change to keep you safe.