Five tips to make the time change less difficult

This weekend we are going to set the watches and clocks back one hour to mark our back to winter time – “normal” time – after six months in summer time. The latter (for which the watches are advanced by one hour) was first implemented during the First World War to take advantage of the lengthening of the length of the day and save energy.

If that made sense when we depended heavily on coal for our light, today the benefits are disputed.

In fact, new research suggests that shifting clocks twice a year has negative effects, especially on our health.

In the first few days after the daylight saving time, many suffer from symptoms as diverse as irritability, reduced sleep, daytime fatigue and decreased immune function. Even more worrying, the heart attack, the stroke and the accidents at work are more numerous during the first weeks after the daylight saving time changes. There is also a 6% increase in fatal car crashes the week of the changeover to summer time.

Why so many difficulties?

If time changes affect us so much, it’s because of our internal “biological clock”. This controls our basic physiological functions, such as when we are hungry and when we are tired. This rhythm is known as the circadian rhythm and lasts about twenty-four hours.

Our body cannot do everything at the same time, which is why each of its functions has a specific time when it works best.

For example, before we wake up in the morning, our internal clock prepares us for waking up. It stops the production of the sleep hormone melatonin over there pineal gland and start releasing cortisol, a hormone that regulates metabolism. Our breathing also quickens, our blood pressure rises, our heart beats faster, and our body temperature rises slightly.

All this is governed by our internal biological clock, the many dials of which are controlled by a “Master clock” located in a part of the brain called hypothalamus. Indeed, while each of our tissues and organs has its own clock (called peripheral), the master clock of the brain is there to synchronize them all and ensure that all work in harmony. at the right time of the day.

But twice a year, this rhythm is disturbed by the time change, which desynchronizes the master clock and all the peripheral clocks …

Light is one of the main landmarks used by our body to regulate its internal clocks. (Sunrise times, here in Paris in 2018; the central stall corresponds to summer hours). | The RedBurn – Daylight Chart, CC BY-SA

As our rhythm is not precisely 24 hours, it resets itself daily using rhythmic signals from the environment. The most reliable and consistent index is the light. The latter naturally controls the circadian rhythms and, every morning, our master clock is set to the outside world thanks to it.

The master clock then tells the time to peripheral clocks in organs and tissues through the secretion of hormones and the activity of nerve cells. When we artificially and brutally alter our daily rhythms, the master clock moves faster than peripheral clocks and that is why we find ourselves disturbed. Our peripheral clocks are still on the previous time zone and we are experiencing a time difference.

It can sometimes take several days or weeks for our body to adjust to the time change and for our tissues and organs to work in harmony again. And, depending on whether you are a natural early bird or a night owl, the time change in spring and autumn may affect you differently.

Night owls will tend to have a harder time adjusting to the spring time change, while morning larks are more affected by the fall time change. Some people are even completely unable to adapt to the time change.

How to best prepare for it

While any disturbance in our circadian rhythm can affect our well-being, there are nonetheless ways to help our body adapt better to the new hour:

  1. Maintain a regular sleep pattern before and after the daylight saving time change. It is especially important that the time you wake up in the morning is regular. Indeed, the body releases cortisol in the morning to make you more alert. During the day, you will become more and more tired as your cortisol levels go down, which will limit yourimpact on your sleep of the time change.

  2. Gradually get your body used to the new time by slowly changing your sleep schedule over a week or so. By changing your bedtime 10-15 minutes earlier or later each day, you help your body smoothly adjust to the new schedule and reduce jet lag.

  3. Enjoy the sunlight in the morning. Morning light helps your body adjust faster and synchronizes your biological clock – as the evening light sets your clock back. Morning light also increases your mood and alertness during the day and helps you sleep better at night.

  4. Avoid bright light at night. This includes blue light from cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Blue light can delay release sleep hormone, melatonin, and shift our internal clock to an even later time. A dark environment is best at bedtime.

  5. Maintain a regular eating pattern. Other environmental indices, such as food, can also help to synchronize your body clock. Research has shown that exposure to light and eating at the right time can help main and peripheral clocks move at the same speed. Respect mealtimes and avoid late meals.

The end of the time change?

Following a European-wide consultation, the European Parliament voted in March 2019 in favor of the summer time suppression – so this could be one of the last times we will have to worry about re-setting our internal clocks after a time change.

While the Member States will each decide to adopt definitively “normal” time (from autumn to spring) or summer time (from spring to autumn), the scientists are favorable to the maintenance of winter time, more in phase with the natural cycles and that where the light of the sun is the most consistent with our social life: when we go to work, to school and to meeting places.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read thearticle original.

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