Daylight Savings began this past weekend, in the wee hours of the night between Saturday and Sunday morning. It is Thursday and I know I am still suffering and my children are suffering too. It has been like waking 5 zombies from the dead this past week. The Universe even buffered the situation for us with a snow day on Monday (we were already in the car when we found out, but glad not to have to make it through a work/school day). Tuesday was a 2-hour delay, thank you Universe for letting us sleep in, but, Wednesday and Thursday have been brutal. Did you know that shifting from daylight savings time has actually been proven to seriously disrupt the functioning of your brain and body. Check out the list below and a DIY Tip for keeping/getting yourself back on track.
The 4 ways the time shift impacts us are directly linked to our circadian rhythms being thrown off. Circadian rhythms, or our “biological clocks” have to do with the cycle of the day based upon when the sun rises giving us light, and when the sun sets, shifting us into dark. When the cycle shifts by an hour, it throws us off kilter.
- Productivity and Concentration
Studies have shown that shifting our time frames decreases our ability to concentrate, focus, be productive, and even your memory. Sleep deprivation has been found to be one major reason. You know how it feels to be sleep deprived. It is harder to think. Now that it is darker in the morning your brain won’t make cortisol, which is known to be the stress hormone but it is essential for productivity on a 24 hour cycle, as easily 1 hour earlier in the morning. Studies from University of Westminster show that decreased cortisol levels negatively impact your brain and your productivity. Executive function, specifically goal-setting, planning, organization, and implementation of action steps, was shown to decrease. That is what I am feeling this week. I am always up early and slept past my alarm clock, twice. Crazy!
DIY TIP to Increase Productivity: Go to bed at the same time or earlier. The inclination is to want to stay up later because of the time switch. Don’t! Go to bed. Don’t drink caffeine or nap in the afternoon, even if you normally do. Help your brain and body become more tired that night by not artificially stimulating it later in the day. Then when you wake up, turn on the lights to stimulate cortisol production. In my case, a lot of lights. Exposure to light has been shown to synchronize the brain and body systems to work together better, helping you to learn, work, and feel better throughout the day.
- Workplace Injuries
A study of workplace mining injuries over a 23-year period showed a 5.7% increase the Monday following the clocks “springing forward”. More importantly, those injuries were significantly more severe leading to a 68% increase in time off from work. So, if you feel jet-lagged from the time change stay home or be more careful. Workplace injuries can include those that lead to back, neck, and arm, and leg pain. More serious injuries, might involve spinal disc injuries of your back such as a herniated or bulging disc. If you suffer from a head injury, or concussion, this could lead to serious long-term effects of your thinking and performance.
DIY Tip to Avoid Workplace Injuries: Following the sleep deprivation prevention tips above will help your cause. Also, taking more frequent breaks throughout your day on the Monday after the time shift will help also. Keep your mind and body as fresh as possible throughout the day. Eat well. By keeping your food nourishing and healthy, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats like chicken you can keep your energy higher. Don’t bog down your digestive system with fatty fried foods such as French fries and hamburgers that might make you sleepier.
- Car Crashes:
A 10-year study showed that there was a 6% increase in car crashes after the clock shift in the Spring than before. This increase in accidents resulted in more than 300 deaths. The primary reason for these car crashes, you guessed it, sleep deprivation. Beyond death, car crashes can lead to a higher incidence in whiplash, back pain, and concussions.
DIY Tip to Avoid Car Crashes: Re-read the paragraph on increasing concentration above. When you are tired, it is hard to be a good driver and respond to high intensity situations in a car. This is especially true if you have a brain pattern that is more susceptible to these times of shifts and have been proven to have more difficulty driving in the first place, like an ADHD pattern. Avoid driving if you feel tired or distracted and keep your teens with ADHD off the road for a few days until their brains adjust to the time difference.
- Diet and Appetite:
Speaking above about eating health food, changes in circadian rhythms have been shown to disrupt our cycle of eating. This puts you at greater risk for impulse eating, especially foods that are bad for you and over-eating in general. If you are at greater risk for food sensitivities in the first place, this problem could be exacerbated even more.
DIT Tip to Avoid Poor Eating: Stock up on healthy snacks. This way if your schedule is messed up all day long, you will not skip meals and eat junk food instead. Make sure you eat lunch. This will keep you from having greater hunger later in the day and eating more in the evening. Late night eating, especially foods higher in protein and richer in fat, has been shown to throw your sleep cycle off. This will keep the problem perpetuating itself. Eat early and often and make sure to keep it healthy.