It’s that time of year again. Daylight saving time ends in the early hours of 27 October 2019. This means that the clocks are turned backward one hour. In other words, you will get an extra hour of sleep. But what are the side effects of winter time? Does it affect your body or mood? What influence does winter time have on your health?
Winter time is the body’s normal time clock, also called circadian rhythm. Our biological clock regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. To stay on the 24-hour cycle, the brain needs the input of sunlight. If we use summer time in winter, sunrise would occur around 10.00 a.m. And at 10.00 a.m., most people are already at work or in school. Research shows that the delay in sunrise has a negative effect on the body. Delayed exposure to natural light in the morning when the body is awake and moving can lead to depression, cardiovascular diseases and other conditions. What’s more, getting up in pitch-dark conditions every morning to go to work or school is probably not something we should let happen.
Installing perennial standard time, or winter time, is the best and safest option for our bodies. But whichever way you look at it, there is far more darkness in winter than in summer. This can cause gloominess or depression. Or feelings of sadness, apathy, fatigue or lack of energy. This is because, in addition to our biological clock, the brain produces hormones and other natural chemicals that play a role in making us feel sleepy. One of these hormones is melatonin. As days become shorter and nights longer, melatonin levels rise in some people. This can make you sleepy more quickly and also leave you feeling tired the next morning.
Winter depression is a mild form of depression and usually only occurs in autumn or winter. Fortunately, there are easy treatments and tips that can help ease the winter blues.
- Light therapy: The main cause of winter depression is light deprivation caused by the shortened period of daylight during the winter months. Light therapy is a treatment that involves exposure to a lamp that resembles sunlight. This can help to improve symptoms such as fatigue and gloominess.
- Stay active: Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible. Preferably in the morning, so that the blue tint of the morning light can help you feel more awake. Go outside, cycle to work or take a walk in the early morning. Being active will give you more energy and improve your mood.
- Eat healthily Your body needs vitamins, especially in winter. Make sure to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit during the winter season. This will help keep your body strong and healthy. Also take high-quality Vitamin D to mitigate the effects of reduced sunlight exposure.
- Zen and meditation Incorporate some ‘me’ time into your daily routine. Even only a few minutes of meditation can help you become more grounded. Meditation can ease your stress and help collect your thoughts.
Tips to deal with the shift to winter time
Adjusting to winter time can be easy. Our body’s internal clock does so automatically. If the transition to winter time is affecting your mood, here are tips you can follow:
- Go to bed on time and make sure you have a stable day and night rhythm.
- Incorporate time for relaxation into your day and for activities that you enjoy. Spend time with family and friends, treat yourself to a visit to a spa or a night at the cinema.
- Controlling the amount of natural light you’re exposed to after you wake up can help you wake up easier. Turn on your bedroom lights as soon as your alarm clock goes off. Exposure to light signals your brain that it’s time to stop sleeping and will help you to shake off that sleepy feeling.
- Move your alarm clock further away from your bed. This way, you have no other choice than to get out of bed to switch off the alarm.
- Would you like to wake up in a more relaxed way? Instead of fumbling in complete darkness to turn off your alarm, sunrise clocks, or wake-up lights, simulate the rising sun and allow you to wake up from your dreams more gently.
Are you suffering from ongoing fatigue or sleeping difficulties? Then make an appointment to see your GP or consult a doctor through Dokteronline.com.
Leeuwenkamp, J. (25 October, 2019). Waarom de wintertijd gezonder is (Why winter time is healthier). Consulted on 9 October, 2019 on https://gezondnu.nl/dossiers/gezondheid/vermoeidheid/bioritme/wintertijd-gezonder/
Ridder, R.d., en Bhagwant, A. (2019). Klok verzetten naar de wintertijd: wat doet het met je? (Switching the clock to winter time: what is the impact?) Consulted on 9 October, 2019 on https://www.dokterdokter.nl/gezond-leven/psyche/klok-verzetten-naar-wintertijd-wat-doet-het/item28893
Waard, P.d. (27 October, 2019). Vijf argumenten om de wijzers van de klok dit weekend niet terug te draaien (Five reasons why we should not to turn back the clock this weekend). Consulted on 9 October, 2019 on https://www.volkskrant.nl/wetenschap/vijf-argumenten-om-de-wijzers-van-de-klok-dit-weekend-niet-terug-te-draaien~b73ffcc6/
Wat je moet weten over je biologische klok (Here’s what you need to know about your biological clock) (undated). Consulted on 9 October, 2019 on https://www.volkskrant.nl/columns-opinie/wat-je-moet-weten-over-je-biologische-klok~b24006e5/
Winterdepressie (Winter depression) (undated). Consulted on 9 October, 2019 on https://www.psyq.nl/depressie/winterdepressie