It’s that time of year again – time to fall back and set our clocks back one hour. Resetting clocks in devices is simple. Unfortunately, your body clock is not nearly as easy to reprogram. This comes with some serious health consequences. An hour time shift does not seem like a lot, but your body runs on a tight schedule and this one-hour change throws us off.
Scientists have documented that the shift to daylight saving time in the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep, is linked to an a much higher rate of attacks and car accidents. Although we gain an hour to sleep – the change throws off the sleep cycle and that is where all the problems come from.
Over the last 20 years, scientists have documented that, in addition to the master clock in our brains, every cell in our body has a circadian rhythm and time-keeping mechanism. The body and cell’s circadian rhythm help regulate important functions such as sleep and metabolism. And increasingly, there's evidence that when our habits — such as when we eat and sleep — are out of sync with our internal clocks, it can harm us.
When we disrupt our routines with erratic sleep or eating habits, it can increase the risk of metabolic disease. For instance, overnight shift workers are at much higher risk of developing diabetes and obesity. Research also shows that kids who don't have set bedtimes and mealtimes are also more likely to become overweight.
As days get shorter with less daylight, it's easy to fall into bad habits, and light exposure is key to regulating circadian rhythm. It is the primary signal to turn on the body’s metabolic processes for sleep and rest to active and alert.
How to prepare for the dark days
Maximize your exposure to daylight in the morning hours, since it gets dark so early in the evening.
Minimize Nighttime light
Exposure to light and electromagnetic fields from computers, phones, tablets, and T.V.’s all act as a stimulant, so it is important to minimize nighttime light exposure and blue light exposure in particular. Blue light comes from artificial lighting. Blue wavelengths – which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood – are disruptive at night. Energy efficient lighting is packed with blue light as our electronics.
So try to turn off lights and if you must use a computer get a blue light filtering program that will adjust the amount of blue light emitted by your computer, phone, and tablets such as flux – https://justgetflux.com and the Twilight app for your phone. Both allow you to set times and adjust blue light output of your devices automatically based on time of day! You can also buy blue blocking glasses to use in the evening. This may seem gimmicky but there is very well done research supporting the effectiveness of reducing blue light in the evening through these and other measures!