Sleep doctor: Don't underestimate how the end of Daylight Saving Time can impact your body

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Posted at 7:28 AM, Nov 05, 2021

Get ready to Fall Back — Daylight Saving Time comes to an end this weekend!

Of course, it means an extra hour of sleep Saturday into Sunday, but moving the clocks back 60 minutes can mess with our bodies head to toe.

"We have these clocks in our body that govern our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle so even a small disturbance in sleep can make a difference to our mood, our cardiovascular health, our digestion," said Dr. Vaishnavi Challapalli Sri, a specialist in sleep medicine and internal medicine for Sleep Specialists of Tidewater, a Bayview Physicians Group practice.

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Dr. Vaishnavi Challapalli Sri is a specialist in sleep medicine and internal medicine at Sleep Specialists of Tidewater, a Bayview Physicians Group practice.

Dr. Sri tells News 3 the key to adjusting happens in the days leading up to the time change. She says, ideally, a person would begin moving their bedtime earlier a week before, but even going to bed later on Friday night can be helpful.

"Maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake up time every day is very important for good sleep hygiene," said Dr. Sri. "Sleep is very important. It's one of the three pillars of good health, the three pillars being diet, exercise and sleep."

To help adjust your sleep schedule, she suggests getting into the sunlight in the morning. That can even mean using a sunlamp for an artificial source of light. Avoiding blue light from television and phone screens an hour before bed can also lead to an easier time falling asleep.

Also, keep in mind that a lack of light in the evening, due to the earlier sunset, can lead to changes in mood.

According to Mental Health America, up to ten percent of the population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression.

Heather Andrew, the Peer-to-Peer Coordinator for the Coastal Virginia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), says getting ahead of her seasonal depression has proven to help, whether it's coming up with activities to do or finding things to look forward to around the holidays.

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Heather Andrew, the Peer-to-Peer Coordinator at NAMI Coastal Virginia, says adult coloring books are a way she manages seasonal depression when the days get shorter.

"I create inside routines. I have a puzzle table. I might pick up a new hobby or catch up on my scrapbooking. We do spring cleaning. I do winter cleaning sometimes and organize all the cupboards that need to be cleaned. I very much try to make sure I get into the sunshine, the actual sunlight, at least 15 minutes a day," said Andrew.

Dr. Sri agrees, sunlight can be a major factor in fighting depression, as can movement.

"Exercise in the evening, eat your meal early, be around bright light in the morning and our social circles and timings also change so socializing more will kind of help combat that seasonal depression," she said.

So, yes, the end of Daylight Saving Time means an extra hour of sleep, but its impacts go far beyond.