Understanding SAD and Daylight Savings Time

Fall is undoubtedly a pleasant time of year enjoyed by the people living in Louisiana; however, one drawback that comes with the cooler climate is the transition to daylight savings time. Even though the sun has been going down earlier every day since summer solstice, there is something about setting the clocks back that makes it seem darker and gloomier.

With this time change, SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) sweeps across the country. Although the symptoms of SAD can be experienced even prior to the turning of the clocks back, this one act of bringing the darkness an hour earlier does something to peoples’ psyche. Why is this?

Understanding Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD):

Just like plants and vegetation, without the proper amount of sunshine, people can start to wilt or feel sluggish. This is because your body’s internal clock, which is also known as the circadian rhythm, needs the sun to produce those “happy” hormones that make us feel energized. People with SAD may be more vulnerable to depression, mood shifts or lack of ambition after the clocks turn back. It can also affect one’s sleep pattern, so individuals who are used to their current schedules may find it more difficult to get accustomed to the new sleep routine.

What can be done to overcome SAD and the symptoms of depression associated with it? Here are 5 tips to stay healthy and happy (even after the clocks turn back an hour).

  • Focus on something you can look forward to. Now is the time to book a vacation, if you can. Perhaps you can look at someplace sunny to replace the SAD with sunshine!
  • Supplement with Vitamin D. If taking a vacation is not an option, you’ll have to get a bit more creative with your need for Vitamin D. You need at least 600 IUs per day, but SAD sufferers may want to bump that up to 3000 – 5000 IUs.
  • Eat foods that keep you energized. That old wives’ tale about storing extra food for winter is hosh-posh. You may eat more when you are depressed; however, try to refrain from eating junk food. This only intensifies SAD, because instead of merely being depressed by the lack of sunshine, you may also develop a lower self-esteem if you experience a weight gain. Fishes like swordfish, yogurts, tuna, eggs, some cereal and milk are fortified with Vitamin D, thereby giving you a healthy option and helping you to overcome SAD over a nice meal.
  • Invest in a sun lamp. This might not be in the budget, so another option is to call local health clubs which may have these available. You should only sit near a sun lamp for short bursts of time, as prolonged use can give you sleep apnea, restlessness or can cause manic outbursts among those who are clinically depressed. In Louisiana, we have less of an issue with lack of sun than in northern states; however, the early onset of darkness after daylight savings time can trigger SAD symptoms.
  • Take more breaks outside, despite the conditions. We don’t get much snow in Louisiana, but it can get cold or brisk in the winter months. Put on a sweatshirt and take a lunch break outside. Even 15 minutes or more will do wonders for your SAD condition.

The days may be shorter, yes. But you can cope with the decreased daylight and preserve your mental health. Just remember that the shortest day of the year is only four weeks after the daylight savings time occurs, so after that, the days will become longer as we wait for the clocks to move ahead again next spring.

NOTE: This year, daylight savings time occurs on Sunday, November 6, 2016. Mark your calendars!