Thursday, November 01, 2007
Are you in rhythm?
I love seasonal things: the leaves turning in Central Park, black tights and especially skiing - so why is it I much prefer to "spring forward," and feel a little off when it's time to "fall back?"
Biologically - I may have it backwards.
Nights get longer, days get shorter - but as counterintuitive as it sounds, new research suggests we should actually feel a little better when we move back from daylight saving time to standard time, at 2 a.m. Sunday, than we do come spring.
It has to do with your circadian clock, which - even more than your BlackBerry alarm- is your brain's master timekeeper. It governs sleep and wake cycles and body functions. Circadian rhythms naturally follow the sun in terms of sleep patterns, providing synchronicity as the seasons change. It's not just we humans who are affected by circadian cycles - they govern rhythmic changes in the behavior and physiology of most species.
When you feel alert - sleepy - want to eat, even the urge to urinate (less frequently at night) - all circadian.
Now, a large German study looks at what happens when man fools with Mother Nature's clock. Analyzing subjects who kept sleep records, researchers found sleeping patterns work clockwise, and the end of daylight savings time is how the body naturally wants to work - and our sleep and peak activity levels readily adjust.
But the study found when daylight-saving time kicks in come March and we lose that hour of sleep, it goes against our natural circadian rhythm - and we feel out of whack.
This should fuel the argument that daylight saving time - practiced by one-fourth of the world - messes with human physiology more than it should. Keep in mind, daylight saving time didn't evolve to get us in sync with the universe - it's a man-made thing designed to save energy.
So what if you're NOT feeling so energetic as you fall back, as we theoretically should?
We are in for shorter days, and that may burden folks who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. You may feel tired, blue or crave carbs - all telltale symptoms of SAD. Experts say the best way to deal with that is to maximize your exposure to light (natural light is best,) plus, exercise in the morning and regulate your sleep schedule.
Does changing the clock affect how you feel? We'd like to hear from you.
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