Clocks go back warning: The detrimental effect ‘falling back’ could have on your health

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When the clocks fall back, an hour of daylight is seemingly lost, as the nights draw closer in. With more time spent in darkness, a certain disorder looms.

A research paper, published in the journal Epidemiology, reviewed 185,419 diagnoses of depression.

As expected, there was an increase in hospital admissions for depression as winter descended.

Yet interestingly, a spike in cases immediately followed the changing of the clocks.

This suggests the people in the study could have been suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Mental health charity Mind define SAD as a “type of depression” experienced during particular times of the year.

In order for a person to be diagnosed with SAD, the low mood must interfere with day-to-day life.

Symptoms of the disorder include the following:

  • Lack of energy
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Not wanting to see people
  • Sleep problems, such as sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty waking up, or difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty or hopeless
  • Changes in your appetite, for example feeling more hungry or wanting more snacks
  • Being more prone to physical health problems, such as colds, infections or other illnesses
  • Losing interest in sex or physical contact
  • Suicidal feelings

As darkness permeates during the autumn and winter months, people are exposed to less light.

Mind explained: “When light hits the back of your eye, messages go to the part of your brain that controls sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity.

“If there isn’t enough light, these functions can slow down and gradually stop.”

Some people require more light than others, which means they’re more prone to developing SAD.

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When Britain moves from British Summer Time (BMT) to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), your body clock could become disrupted.

“Your brain sets your body clock by the hours of daylight,” confirmed Mind.

While the brain tries to adjust, the body clock could “slow down, leading to tiredness and depression”.

Some researchers pinpoint SAD on your “delayed sleep phase”, as your sleep pattern “starts at a different time”.

Losing that hour of sunshine in the evenings could also affect melatonin levels.

Melatonin is a hormone – triggered by darkness – which helps the body get ready for sleep.

People with SAD seem to produce higher levels of melatonin once the clocks go back.

In order to combat SAD, you need to make the most of natural daylight while you can.

Spending time in natural light, by going for walks or sitting near a window, may be helpful.

If you know you’re going to feel lethargic come the evening time, try to make big meals in advance and freeze them.

This way you can ensure you’re looking after your physical health by “eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable”.

For more advice on how you can manage symptoms of SAD, visit Mind – a charity dedicated to helping you.

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