I have always dreaded Daylight Saving Time (DST), and for years I wondered whether the overwhelming fatigue, irritability, hunger, sadness, and lack of motivation I felt was real or imagined. After all, surely, just one hour can’t make that big a difference, right?
Science backs me up. Studies have found that setting our clocks forward for spring has some unintended consequences that are far worse than even my temporary symptoms. As unbelievable as it sounds, DST increases the risk of heart attacks, car accidents, and sleep problems for several days -- and, in some cases, for weeks.
Yes, it was harder to get out of bed Monday, and it may be more difficult to get to sleep in the weeks to come. Being tired disrupts your life in multiple ways; it zaps your energy, kills your concentration, may cause cognitive dysfunction, may trigger depression, and blocks you from working out. Your workouts are probably going to suffer for a few weeks until your body clock adjusts to this new rhythm.
How to get your groove back: You may want to do more outdoor workouts. Getting more sunlight will help your body clock adjust. So, lace up those sneakers and walk, jog, run, bike, or hike to help get your body back in rhythm.
Is DST sabotaging your weight-loss goals? Possibly. Daylight Saving can sabotage your weight-loss efforts because when most people are sleep-deprived, something in our brains and body chemistry triggers a desire for fatty, salty, or sugary foods. When you are struggling to stay awake, you seek food you hope will give you a burst of energy. The only problem is, after the first burst of energy and subsequent fall, you’ll be looking for another, and the cycle repeats, leaving you even more depleted.
Less sleep makes you fat. The only thing worse than DST is if you’re consistently skimping on sleep, burning the midnight oil, or, worse, burning both ends of the candle, you are doing irreparable harm to your health.
Consistent lack of sleep will not only wreck your waistline, it will also wreck your immune system. As anyone who has ever worked the graveyard shift can tell you, it totally disrupts your circadian rhythm -- the internal clock that tells us when we should be sleeping and when we should be awake. It is the rare person who can adjust to that type of schedule. Most will likely end up with the dreaded shift-work sleep disorder. So, pass on the night work. The typical nighttime pay differential is clearly not worth it. On top of everything else, your metabolism will take a nosedive, and the lack of sleep will show in your sallow skin and puffy and tired eyes.
Like it or not, we are driven by our hormones, circadian rhythm, and even by cycles of light and dark. In addition to proper nutrition and sunlight, we need about eight hours of sleep a night. That’s right, about a third of our lives should be spent sleeping.
To help you recover from DST, drink more water, adjust your portion sizes, lower your sugar intake, exercise outdoors, and get your z’s.
Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Her column appears on the first and third Wednesdays monthly.