It is time once again for the country to switch from daylight savings time to standard savings time, which is scheduled to occur Sunday, November 6, 2011. In the autumn we “fall back” one hour by moving our clocks back at 2:00 am. This means our bodies will have to adjust to the sleep schedule/time shift that occurs during this yearly, seasonal change.
We all have an “internal clock” or circadian rhythm that coordinates our feeling sleepy or awake with the natural daytime and nighttime cycles. This internal clock will have to adjust itself to accommodate daylight availability. The science of chronobiology is the study of how these circadian rhythms affect an individual’s health.
Researchers have looked at the relationship of circadian rhythms and individual health outcomes. Studies have shown that the these bi-annual time changes not only disturb our sleep patterns but can also cause health-related problems which include difficulty sleeping or insomnia, loss of focus or alertness, as well as depression and anxiety. The studies have also shown an increase in the incidents of heart attacks during these periods of seasonal daylight adaptation.
Researchers like Michael Terman, PhD, professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University, director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, has identified that with sleep disruption; increased activity of the nervous system may speed up the heart rate, and also increase immune cells named cytokines that enhance inflammation and artery damage.
Being healthy, well nourished, and fit are ways to minimize the effects of changes to our circadian rhythms, but there are other tips you may wish to follow as well. The Center for Environmental Therapeutics has information that will assist with these time-shift transitions. Under the link "Therapeutic Resources & Tools," you will find a link to "Your Circadian Rhythm Type."
If you wish to receive detailed feedback on how to best adapt to the time shifts, simply fill out the provided questionnaire to experience a smooth transition into the winter season!
- Dr. Georgianna Donadio