By Lindsey Palmer, SELF magazine
Sunday is Daylight Saving Time (DST), when we "fall back" one hour on the clocks for a sunnier start to fall and winter days. We admit we're looking forward to the extra hour of sleep on Saturday night, but we also always feel a little whacky after this time shift. It turns out Daylight Saving really does throw off our inner balance, and there are real, potentially scary consequences: Following DST switches, studies show that car accidents spike, workers are less efficient and sleep is compromised (The American Journal of Public Health, The American Economic Review and BMC Physiology, respectively), plus plenty of people report feeling the winter blues.
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Dr. John Sharp, M.D., author of the upcoming The Emotional Calendar: Understanding Seasonal Influences and Milestones to Become Happier, More Fulfilled, and in Control of your Life, said it can take up to two months to fully adjust. Dr. Sharp offers this tip for a smooth adjustment to the time shift: "It's important to be authentic to the season. Instead of using the fact that it's dark out in the evening to hide under your covers wishing it was April, embrace the change and find autumnal things that make you happy, like getting cozy by the fireplace and eating soup."
Here are 4 potential pitfalls of Daylight Saving Time--and how to avoid them:
1. More annoying than dangerous: Plummeting work productivity
Remedy: Dr. Sharp recommends preparing yourself by setting up a schedule that's aligned with your work habits. "If you know you're best in the morning, push yourself to tackle projects then," he says. "If you're not a morning person, commit to getting down to business in the afternoon. Also, be easy on yourself and know that it might take a while to get back on track."
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2. Somewhat dangerous: Poor sleep
Remedy: "An effective way to synch up your internal clock to the external shift is to start going to bed and waking up a bit earlier the week before," says Dr. Sharp. "Four days before, hit the sack 15 minutes early, and three days before, hit the sack 30 minutes earlier, and so on. This will ease you into the change and help your sleep cycle."
3. Dangerous: Feeling down in the dumps
Remedy: Even if you don't suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, Dr. Sharp says the reduced light can really affect your mood. "Using a seasonal light box (with 10,000 Lux brightness) for 20 minutes a day can provide a major boost in energy and mood," he says. Find one at the Center for Environmental Therapeutic's site.
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4. Seriously dangerous: Distracted driving
Remedy: Counteract the perilous double whammy of decreased daylight and tiredness--yours or other drivers'--by being extra vigilant, recommends Dr. Sharp. "Have a cup of coffee in the afternoon, as long as you're not the type of person who's kept up all night by caffeine, and avoid multi-tasking at the wheel," he says.
Happy clock change!
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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio