Daylight Saving Time and Its Impact on Your Mind, Body and Spirit

That twice-a-year struggle of changing your clock for daylight saving time is real. Not only is it an annoying feat in itself to change every clock on your microwave, oven, car, phone and alarm by an hour, but that hour difference also has a major influence on your health.

In Tallahassee, we have two time changes throughout the year: daylight saving time and standard time. In the spring, we “spring forward” and change our clocks to be one hour ahead, losing an hour of sleep. This past week, just like every fall, we “fall back” and set our clocks one hour back, gaining an hour of sleep. While it may not seem like a big deal to switch our clocks by one hour, this hour is critical to determining the health of your mind, body and spirit.

In standard time, when the sun says it’s 12 p.m., our social time also says it’s 12 p.m. However, in daylight saving time, we are always one hour misaligned. This is because when the social time says it’s 12 p.m., it is truly 11 a.m. according to the sun. When our social time and sun time are out of sync, this is when we are more susceptible to serious health and social problems.

Courtesy of University of California San Diego students

The time change affects your mind:

Adjusting our clocks by an hour disrupts our sleep cycles, which negatively affects our mood. The amygdala is the part of our brain where our emotions are processed, and it serves as our sleep center. When we do not get enough sleep or our sleep schedule is thrown off balance, we are much more susceptible to feeling emotionally disturbed. Lack of sleep and routine also decreases our memory production, concentration levels and performance abilities. You may also feel less productive during the school day. This is because the time change causes a dramatic increase in the amount of time adolescents spend on their electronic devices instead of working.

The time change affects your body:

A common misconception with changing our clocks is the belief that we are gaining or losing sunlight. This is false, and instead of increasing or decreasing sunlight, the time change shifts the time that the sun rises and sets, based on a man-made social clock. This is very disruptive to our circadian rhythms. As humans, our internal clock does not change just because we decided as a society to shift the clock twice a year. Disturbing our internal clock impacts every part of our wellbeing, ranging from our hunger levels to our quality of sleep. You are not hallucinating when you feel like your whole life has been uprooted after changing the time on your clock.

The time change affects your spirit:

As with any change in our life, time changes can be hard to adjust to. We get so used to having certain routines and seeing the sunrise and set at a certain time that when we are forced to change up our daily habits, it can be hard to adjust. Give yourself permission to take it easy on yourself during this transitional period. If you feel extra hungry, extra tired or extra moody, it’s okay to honor your body and give it the love and attention it is craving.

While it is scary to realize that changing our clocks by an hour has this great of an impact on our health and wellbeing, it is important to stay informed on how these changes are impacting us.

If you’re feeling tired after a time change, here are some habits you can implement into your daily routine to get back on track:

  • Expose yourself to natural sunlight. Try to wake up when the sun rises and start your nighttime routine when the sun sets.
  • Get more sleep! As college students, we need 6-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or any stimulants that can further disrupt your circadian rhythm.
  • Limit screen time. It may be tempting to curl into a ball and scroll through Instagram all day but staring at more light throughout the day will harm your ability to sleep at night.

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