How the end of Daylight Saving Time could affect your schedule, internal clock

Daylight Saving Time: How the time change affects your internal clock
Credit: Jessica Hromas/Stringer: Collection: Getty Images News. Jessica Hromas/Getty Images

TORONTO – This weekend, Canadians will turn their clocks back one hour as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end for 2013.

As winter approaches, on Sunday morning our clocks fall back by one hour at 2 a.m. This marks a shift into the winter season where our mornings will be brighter but by evening, darkness will roll around a lot earlier in the day.

It’s a good time for Canadians to take advantage of an extra hour of sleep, but the end of Daylight Saving Time and the ushering in of winter could tamper with our internal clocks. That’s because some of us may have trouble adjusting to the shorter amount of natural light we’ll be getting in our days.

Read more: Canadian doctor shares her tips for falling asleep and staying asleep

“We’re creatures that need light in order to reset our internal clock. It’s that clock that really governs things like when you’re hungry, when you feel alert, when you start to feel sleeping, the timing of the sleep stages, our mood and our hormones,” according to Dr. Colleen Carney, an author and Ryerson University professor who runs a sleep lab in Toronto.

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“When we have a shrinking of light this time of the year, and throughout the winter, we have a whole host of problems that can come along with it,” she told Global News.

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Our bodies are thrown off when the amount of light that usually helps regulate our systems starts dwindling down. Some people deal with headaches, they could be cranky, have decreased energy or they’ll notice changes in their eating or sleeping habits. By winter, some patients could be renting light lamps to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder.

During this season, Carney’s lab picks up with locals dropping in with depression or trouble sleeping.

Read more: Are Canadians feeling the winter blues in April?

Cleveland Clinic Dr. Stewart Tepper says that this time of year is usually a trigger for “cluster headaches” in his patients.

“These attacks, which occur every day, occur for six to eight weeks and then go away in a cluster cycle. They cluster, that’s why it’s called cluster and it looks like you can actually trigger a cycle by switching the time with daylight savings time,” he said.

It typically starts just a couple of days after the time change, and affects men more so than women, Tepper said.

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Read more: Daylight Saving Time leads to ‘massive productivity losses,’ study says

Most of us will fall into the winter routine in stride, Carney said. The people who are particularly vulnerable are those who are prone to mood or sleep problems, she warns.

Her recommendation? If you have trouble falling asleep, don’t set your clocks back before bedtime on Saturday and wake up as you normally would on Sunday morning.

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That way, by Sunday night, you may be tired because you stayed up an hour more. (If you’re sleep deprived and you don’t deal with insomnia, feel free to cash in on the extra hour of rest, though.)

As for most people, the experts urge Canadians to use DST as an opportunity to evaluate their routine.

“I want people to reflect on their health habits and habits for sleep,” Carney advised.

This winter season, try to fit in as much natural light as you can, don’t spend too much time in bed when you’re not sleeping, stay hydrated and watch your diet and exercise and try to keep a regular schedule with sleep,” she said.


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