How To Beat Daylight Savings


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If you’re like me, you don’t like when we have to turn out clocks back and “lose” an hour of daylight in November. By the time we’re done with our workday, the sun is setting or for some it has already set. Getting less daylight can put us into a lower mood, disrupt our sleep schedules, increase workplace injuries and potentially alter our eating patterns.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), approximately 5% of American adults experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which occurs when we switch our clocks back and lasts until the Spring. The APA claims that SAD may begin at any age, but it typically starts when a person is between the ages of 18 – 30, and affects women more than men. SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain caused by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in the winter months. However, based on our current understanding of the Brain Gut Microbiome system, SAD is not only associated with changes in the brain, but with more complex changes in the gut microbiome and in the way they interact with our gut and the brain.

Here are some tips for managing the time change if you are experiencing SAD:

  1. Take in as much daylight as possible. If you work in an office building, make sure when you take your lunch break you do so outside. If this is not possible, try to sit by a window where you can soak up some sun. If you’re working from home, getting outside multiple times per day is more accessible, and you should definitely take advantage.
  2. Adjust your sleep schedule. Because the sun rises an hour earlier than you’re used to, it may be helpful to go to sleep one hour earlier and wake up one hour earlier. This may take some time to get used to, so take advantage of short 20-30 minute naps if possible.
  3. Adjust your exercise schedule. When you wake up, implement some type of activity outdoors for as long as you can. If you’re commuting and have to rush to the office, try to take short breaks during the workday, and go on a couple short walks outside.
  4. Eat a healthy diet. Experiencing SAD can have symptoms similar to depression and in this state we often seek unhealthy comfort foods and overindulge in sweets. Try your best not to give in to these cravings and instead seek out high volume, low calorie foods when you’re experiencing these. We have some hearty, gut-healthy recipes listed on our website which you can make at home and take to the office. And more than 50 such recipes will soon be available in our new recipe book Interconnected Plates which you can order through our website
  5. Maintain social relationships. Social interaction is a great way to boost your mood. Whether you have a pet or close friends/family nearby, make the effort to get together for fun activities. If it’s still light outside, do something in the sun, otherwise the simple interaction indoors has also been shown to be critical to boost our mood.

The main takeaway from this post should be to try your best to maintain your schedule while making micro-adjustments to optimize your mood and well-being during the time change. Staying active, getting enough sleep, eating healthily and interacting with your friends and family are going to be your best friends during this period of seasonal depression. And remember, it may take some time to fully adjust to the new timing of your schedule, but stay the course and put your overall health first – at the end of the day, it is what truly matters.

E. Dylan Mayer Dylan is a graduate from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a major in Neuroscience and minor in Business. He has also recently completed his M.S. in Human Nutrition at Columbia University.

This article was reviewed and approved by Emeran Mayer, MD