Daylight Saving Time ends: The mental impact of the time change

Transition from DST can exacerbate seasonal affective disorder symptoms

How does Daylight Saving Time impact you?

It’s time to “fall back” this weekend, as we mark the end of Daylight Saving Time.

And while many are looking forward to that extra hour of sleep Saturday night, the transition can be difficult for some. Experts say that understanding the psychology behind the time change and how it impacts us can make it easier to adjust.

Turning the clocks back an hour can increase the risk of seasonal affective disorder, also known as “SAD.”

“When there is a shift in the season and our access to daylight, our bodies struggle to adjust,” said Cleveland Clinic psychologist Dr. Susan Albers.

According to Albers, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include feeling depressed, acting withdrawn, lacking motivation, struggling to concentrate and also changes in sleeping and eating habits.

“Seasonal affective disorder is often caused by changes in our circadian rhythm, that internal natural clock that runs our sleep, our mood and our appetite,” Albers said.

Related: Daylight Saving Time: How to stay ahead of the health risks and adjust smoothly

Because there is less sun during the winter months, especially here in Michigan, Albers says it is important that people make sure they are getting enough vitamin D. Alternative sources of vitamin D include food, supplements and even light therapy lamps.

A recent study found that 61% of participants who used light therapy lamps for four weeks saw a decrease in seasonal affective disorder symptoms.

Other actions like exercising, eating healthy and developing a daily routine can also help decrease SAD symptoms.

“Staying true to a routine is key to dealing with seasonal affective disorder,” Albers said. “Going to sleep at the same time each night, getting up at the same time each morning -- our bodies love consistency and routine.”

It is also important to get outside when there is natural light, so that your body’s clock can reset.

Dr. Albers says that if your symptoms don’t seem to be improving, be sure to reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional for support.

More: End of daylight saving time means winter is on the horizon


About the Author:

Devin Scillian is equally at home on your television, on your bookshelf, and on your stereo. Devin anchors the evening newscasts for Local 4. Additionally, he moderates Flashpoint, Local 4's Sunday morning news program. He is also a best-selling author of children's books, and an award-winning musician and songwriter.