Health Care

How “Springing Forward” Affects Your Mental Health

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The term “springing forward” sounds upbeat and progressive. But for many of us, springing forward — setting the clocks ahead by one hour at the beginning of every spring — is a dreadful thought, bringing to mind shifting schedules and losing precious sleep.

But with a little preparation and a lot of understanding, you can help ease the transition for your family. Read on to learn more about how springing forward affects our whole health.

Springing Forward Into 2022

In 2022, we spring forward on Sunday, March 13th at 2 am to observe daylight saving time (DST). While this annual shift from standard time doesn’t actually add extra time to our 24-hour days, it does get our bodies out of sync and increases incidents of car accidents, heart attacks and strokes in the days following setting the clocks an hour ahead. Some people even experience a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a mood condition related to the changing seasons and begins and ends around the same times every year. Symptoms tend to start in the fall, continue through the winter months and resolve during the spring and summer months. While it’s less common, some people experience the opposite — with symptoms beginning in the warmer months with relief in the fall and winter.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of SAD:

  • Carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless and/or guilty
  • Feeling sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Low energy, sluggishness
  • Losing interest in activities you typically enjoy
  • Sleep problems (sleeping too much or not enough)
  • Thoughts that life isn’t worth living

How is SAD Related to Springing Forward?

Daylight saving time can be exceptionally harsh on people who already experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. Morning light is important for establishing and syncing the body’s circadian rhythms. When we move our clocks forward, we lose an hour of morning light and tack it onto the evening.

Even on standard time, people with SAD feel like they have to wake up right when their body most wants to sleep — and moving the clock ahead only exacerbates the problem.

Tips for an Easier Transition

In order to make springing forward a bit more “springy,” here are three helpful tips you can follow:

1. Make Sleep a Priority

It’s even more important to get proper rest as DST approaches. Make sleep non-negotiable in the days leading up to the change so you don’t start it already sleep-deprived. For most adults, this means allowing for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

2. Ease Into It

Try to back up your schedule in small 15-minute increments a few days before springing forward. It’s difficult for our circadian rhythms to make big, sudden shifts in our sleep-wake schedules. Small increments before setting the clocks ahead will make it easier to adjust.

3. Get the Right Light

Sunlight has a powerful influence on our circadian rhythms and can help us feel more awake during the day. Get outside as much as possible during the daytime, especially morning hours. At night, though, keep the lights in your home low. If possible, it might help to use shades or curtains in bedrooms as it will be lighter at bedtime.

Care for Your Body, Mind and Spirit

If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression or sleep problems, know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, you’re not alone — and there is help.

Your body, mind and spirit work together to form one complete and perfect whole. If one is out of sync, the other two will surely follow. We want you to experience whole-person harmony and can support you on your path to healing with our skilled, compassionate providers and therapists. Visit us here to learn more.

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