WASHINGTON — The time change may make you more prone to get SAD — seasonal affective disorder.
Experts said that’s because when we move to standard time, people tend to lose an hour of afternoon light and come home in the dark.
The change in schedule can throw off the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, Dr. Samuel Friedlander, assistant clinical professor of Sleep Medicine and Allergy Immunology at UH Cleveland Medical Center, said.
“It is great to have the extra hour of sleep, but a few days later that can lead to worse sleep,” Friedlander told ABC News. “It can lead to insomnia or sleepiness.”
As a result of disturbed sleep, Friedlander said the body is put under stress. Sleep is an important part of health.
“It affects nearly every system in the body, so that’s how it can lead to problems in the body,” Friedlander said.
Bethesda psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal is an expert of seasonal affective disorder, and said that it occurs mainly during the winter months due to lack of sunlight.
Once the time change happens, the sun will go down earlier and, in general, end of the year days are shorter. This means that people will be spending more waking hours in the dark, which leads to an increased risk of developing seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Rosenthal said two other reasons why people get what’s often referred to as the “winter blues” is biological predisposition and stress.
One theory as to why people develop SAD after the switch from daylight saving time to standard time is that sunlight brings out serotonin, which is a natural antidote to depression.
But SAD is more than just the winter blues, it’s a form of depression that can be difficult to deal with in the winter months, according to the American Psychological Association.
Several studies have also indicated diminishing light can increase depression.
Symptoms of SAD including fatigue, sleep difficulty or excessive sleeping, weight gain, feelings of hopelessness or despair and thoughts of suicide, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
Rosenthal and other experts said there are a variety of things you can do to prevent yourself from getting SAD, including exercising regularly, trying to go outside and enjoy the natural light in the morning and maintaining social connectivity. He recommends you walk first thing in the morning, do your best to curb stress and plan a winter vacation in a warm and sunny spot.
The end of daylight saving time also presents hazards for drivers, who will be spending more time on the road when the sun is down. The National Highway Safety Administration has cautioned “motorists and pedestrians to be more alert as the potential for harm increases as darkness falls earlier.”
ABC News contributed to this report.
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