Daylight Savings and Mental Health

The optimism of spring may bring more active lifestyles and outdoor activities, but the time change from Daylight Savings can have an effect on not only your sleep, but your mental health. Disrupted sleep cycles, like the hour we lose when we “spring forward,” affects your mood and increases irritability, which in turn can lead to grogginess, lack of focus and concentration and depression and well as physical symptoms.  This change in mood may explain why there are more reported accidents, heart attacks and hospitalization for mood disorders during time changes. 

The good news is that once people adjust to the time change, overall depression rates tend to fall – later sunrise and sunsets are connected to lower rates of depression.  Additionally, because it gets dark later, people are active and exercising more, which improves anxiety and depression.  Finally, we tend to be more social and engaged with others, which impacts our mental health.  Studies have found that belonging to a group – such as a sports team or connecting with your support system – alleviates depression and prevents relapse.

Tips to Prepare for the Time Change

To help you prepare for the shift in daylight savings, experts suggest the following tips to help your body adjust to the time change:

  • Sleep consistency – maintaining a structured and routine sleep pattern leading up to and after the time change is key.  If you can, try to go to bed earlier the night before the time change to help your body prepare for the loss in the hours of sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine the night before the time change since both affects your sleep pattern and contribute to sleep irregularities.
  • Participate in light exercise on Sunday, after you have lost an hour sleep.  Exercise can help advance your body’s clock and reduce depression and anxiety.
  • Wake up at your usual time.  We may be inclined to sleep in on Sunday when we have lost sleep, but getting up at your regular wake-up time can help your body adjust to the time change easier.

If you feel you are still struggling with sleep issues or mood changes long after the time changes, contact a local mental health therapist to identify ways to improve your overall wellbeing.

Erin Swinson, LMHCA, LPC

Therapist

Clarity Clinic

Tucker, L.V, M.D. (n.d.) Daylight Savings and Mental Health.  Retrieved on March 8, 2017 from http://drlawrencetucker.com/daylight-savings-time-mental-health/.

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