4 Effects Of Daylight Saving Time Ending That May Cause Depression — And What To Do About It

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Self

Since the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was established, the powers that be have dictated that those of us living in the United States (with the exception of Arizona, Hawaii, and overseas U.S. territories) must change our clocks twice a year.

Daylight saving time (DST) begins when we spring forward one hour at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends when we fall back one hour at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.

The next time change is right around the corner on November 7, 2021, and I, for one, am not excited to be back on standard time once again.

For me and many others, the prospect of turning back the clock an hour every fall as the seasons change is dread-inducing, as the decrease in sunlight hours typically leads to the onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression, and other related mental health issues.

RELATED: How To Prepare Yourself For The End Of Daylight Saving Time — Before It Hits You Where It Hurts

Though many still believe daylight saving time was designed to help farmers, it was first implemented in Germany in 1916 as a way to preserve energy during World War 1. It was then introduced to the U.S. briefly in 1918, only to be repealed after seven months, as "[the] sun, not the clock, dictated farmers’ schedules, so daylight saving was very disruptive."

It was reintroduced briefly in 1942, and lasted for the duration of World War II, after which "States and localities could start and end daylight saving whenever they pleased, a system that Time magazine (an aptly named source) described in 1963 as 'a chaos of clocks.'"

As reported in Time, "By 1966, the confusion was bad enough to prompt the Uniform Time Act. Signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the first peacetime Daylight Saving Time law said that the United States policy would be to observe six months of Daylight Saving Time and six months of Standard Time. It required states to either adopt Daylight Saving Time entirely or opt-out, avoiding the patchwork of cities and counties that had been so problematic."

So now here we are, heading back to standard time yet again, despite the fact that somewhere around four to six percent of people in the United States suffer from the seasonal affective disorder, and an additional 10 to 20 percent experience seasonal depression in a milder form.

Here are four reasons the end of daylight saving time may affect your mental health, as well as tips to help you manage episodes of seasonal depression.

1. Decreased outdoor activity and exposure to sunlight

When our clocks fall back, we are exposed to less sunlight. The sun comes up early when we are most likely still in bed and then sets early, often before we leave work.

In New England, the sun sets at 3:30 p.m. in November, before many kids may get off the bus on their way home from school.

After a summer full of sunshine and outside activities, turning the clock back drives many people inside to more sedentary pursuits, despite outdoor activity being an important factor in maintaining optimal mental and physical health.

What to do about it:

While you may not be able to remain as active as you would like to be in the fall and winter months, there are pure spectrum light lamps on the market that, if you sit in front of them daily, mimic the sun’s rays and improve your mood.

Less exposure to sunlight also leads Vitamin D levels to drop. Low Vitamin D levels are associated with depression, so if you have a tendency toward seasonal depression, talk to your doctor about a Vitamin D supplement that could work for you.

2. Changes in your routine

For many people, having a solid routines to organize this crazy, busy life helps them feel less anxious, more in control and therefore, calmer and happier.

We get up with the sun in the morning and have our coffee before going about our day. As dinner comes, the sun sets and bedtime follows. Life is somewhat predictable, and our mental health is good.

When the clocks fall back or spring forward an hour, these routines can get disrupted.

You may find it harder to get up in the morning when it’s still dark out, or wake up too early when the sun is shining brightly. Perhaps the end of the day seems to come too early because the darkness falls too soon. Or, when it stays light later, kids may struggle with going to bed, which doesn’t make any parent’s life better.

What to do about it:

One thing that's been especially hard for me is adjusting my dogs' feeding schedule with the time change. The dogs don’t know what's happening. All they know is what their internal clock tells them — that it's food time! Having my dog wake me up early or follow me around staring definitely does not improve my mood.

Do your best to keep to your routine when the clock changes. Maintaining even some of your regular habits can go a long way toward keeping your mood elevated.

RELATED: What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder? 5 Things To Know About The 'Winter Blues'

3. Sleep interferences

An irregular sleep cycle can be a literal nightmare when it comes to mental health.

I personally know I need to get at least 6 good hours of sleep a night in order to feel mentally stable the next day.

When the seasons change, your sleep hygiene may be disrupted for days, or even weeks. When my sleep is disrupted, watch out. I get cranky and anxious and make everyone’s life difficult. And I know that I am being this way, which pushes me deeper down into a darker place.

What to do about it:

To combat this sleep interference, I make sure I have a sleep aid to help me through daylight saving time-related transitions. Getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis probably does more for me than anything else as far as managing my moods.

Melatonin has always worked well for me, but be sure to check with your doctor to see what might be best for you.

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4. Increased anxiety and anticipation

One of the hardest things about the time change is knowing that it, along with winter, is coming.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), seasonal affective disorder "is more frequent in people who live far north or south of the equator. For example, 1 percent of those who live in Florida and 9 percent of those who live in New England or Alaska suffer from SAD.​"

Months and months of snow, freezing rain and power outages can be trying for even the most mentally stable people. And even for those living in warmer parts of the country, shorter days and lower temperatures can have a negative impact on overall well-being.

The end of daylight saving time is kind of like a Sunday afternoon with your mother-in-law — you're full of anxiety waiting for the visit to arrive, and when it’s finally over (hopefully without too much damage), the relief is tremendous.

What to do about it:

Recognizing that your anxiety about the coming cold months ahead might be part of the reason you're feeling down can help you breathe and relax into it instead.

Standard time can be a dark period, literally and figuratively. Depression can set in and, if not dealt with, get worse over the winter.

The key to maintaining optimal mental health throughout the colder months is developing awareness. If you feel yourself sinking, talk to your doctor or mental health counselor. See what might help you ride out these dark times until spring.

You can do it! After all, you've done it before.

If you or someone you know are struggling with their mental health please don't suffer in silence. You are not alone — an estimated 970 million people worldwide have a mental health or substance abuse disorder.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline — 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 — is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year service available in both English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing mental health issues and/or substance use disorders.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Fight Seasonal Depression (When Winter Blues Have You Feeling Sad)

Mitzi Bockmann is a NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate whose writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. She works all kinds of people to help them to be all that they want to be in this crazy world in which we live.