Side Effects of Shorter Days

Young woman reading on her smartphone at home while the sun sets.

When Daylight Savings Time (DST) ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, you’ll turn back your clock and (hopefully) get an extra hour of sleep. Most of us need it. And while getting plenty of sleep is beneficial to your health, the shorter days and less sunlight can also have negative side effects on your health.

Here are four potential side effects of shorter days:

  • Your risk of being in a car accident may increase. The week after DST ends there’s a seven percent increase in car crashes. Driving home in the dark may be to blame for the increase in accidents. Take your time to leave work. Make sure your headlights are on and drive carefully.
  • You may exercise less. With less sunlight and cooler temperatures, you may want to skip your normal exercise routine. However, making time for exercise can help prevent weight gain through the darker, winter months. To stay in shape, join an after-work indoor sports team such as basketball or volleyball. Or wake up early and exercise before your workday begins. If you do exercise outdoors in the dark, wear brightly colored clothing or reflective gear.
  • You may feel SAD. Reduced sunlight can disrupt daily body rhythms and put you at risk for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. SAD is four times more common in women than in men. Even if you don’t have full-blown SAD, you can experience the “winter blues,” or feelings of exhaustion, sluggishness, and sadness. Sunlight may be your best medicine. Spend at least 30 minutes a day outside.
  • You may have a headache. Weather changes are known for triggering headaches. But time changes pose problems, too. The end of DST is a common trigger for cluster headaches (extremely painful headaches that occur in “clusters,” usually at the same time of the day and night for several weeks). See your doctor if are experiencing frequent headaches. Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Cluster headaches are more common in people who smoke and drink alcohol.

If you’re struggling with sleep, weight, mood, headaches, or any of the effects related to time change, Baptist Health is here to help. Find a provider near you and get started on the road to better health.

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