Fall is upon us, and in commemorating it, almost the entire country will boldly step one hour into the past. That is an extra hour of life, usually spent sleeping, but the opportunities are limitless.
Turning the clock backward is not the disturbance to your circadian rhythm that springing forward is in March. In the spring, daylight savings time robs you of an hour of sleep, and it is dearly missed. We see a significant increase in heart attacks, industrial injuries, motor vehicle accidents and male suicide. Mayhem. This seems like kind of a high price to pay to save a few candles.
But falling backward gets you some payback. Those extra heart attacks and injuries see a big decrease with the extra hour of sleep. Even desperate men face their first cups of coffee without an accompanying firearm. Fewer accidents on the way to work. Everyone is a little more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
The only significant health issue from setting the clocks back is an excess of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or depression, if you prefer English. For some people, sunlight is critically important to their mood, and an hour less of light in the evenings can trigger winter depression. This can often be remedied with supplemental light in the sunlight spectrum. If you like technology, special lighting rigs can be purchased. If your inclination is simple and economical, your local nursery sells plant lights that will do the job. If light doesn’t work, your doctor can try one of several effective medications for it (better living through pharmacology).
To keep your energy up during these shorter days, sometimes you just need to remember healthy habits, such as:
- Exercise: There is nothing else as important to maintain youthful vigor. If you pay attention, you will notice it takes more exercise to tire you out after just a week.
- Diet: Remember to eat balanced meals. Every extra pound you carry around takes energy. Fat is also hormonally active tissue, which has energy ramifications.
- Sleep: This is highly underrated in U.S. society. A good night’s sleep cannot be replaced by coffee or energy drinks.
A few grow lights are not bad things to keep around. Your internal clock is reset by light, and a morning splash of light in your face can help you spring forward in March.
Now what to do with the extra hour…
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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