Fresh from a summer of long days filled with sunshine, the transition to fall and fewer daylight hours can feel jarring. However, “falling back” an hour when daylight saving time ends can be an opportunity to learn more about what makes your body tick — and to create some new healthy habits.
What are circadian rhythms and why are they important?
Each of us maintains a circadian rhythm — also known as our body’s internal clock. Everyone’s natural 24-hour cycle is unique, but experts recommend eight hours of sleep to help maintain our cycles. Medications, alcohol, stress and the environment can affect our body’s internal clock, causing disrupted sleep, headaches and grumpy moods.
The end of daylight savings time in early November is one of the environmental factors that can shock our circadian rhythm. To help get back on track, our primary care experts weigh in on some suggestions to help reset your body’s internal clock:
- ● Avoid screen time before bed
- ● Create a relaxing bedtime routine
- ● Get plenty of light exposure during daylight hours
- ● Go to sleep an hour earlier than normal
- ● Keep lighting soft at nighttime
- ● Limit alcohol before bed
- ● Reduce afternoon caffeine intake
Creating a sleep-friendly environment will help you get restorative sleep and quickly reset your body’s circadian rhythm.
Vitamin D: How can I get enough with fewer daylight hours?
Here in the Lowcountry, we all love the sunshine. However, with fewer daylight hours, it’s still essential to get enough Vitamin D to meet our body’s needs.
“Vitamin D is an essential building block for your body,” says Dr. Valerie Scott, a primary care doctor at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. “It helps strengthen your bones, boosts your immune system and can even help reduce inflammation and prevent disease.”
Dr. Scott shares the following tips for getting in ample amounts of Vitamin D, even during the shorter daylight seasons:
- ● Start taking a Vitamin D supplement: Talk with your primary care doctor about taking Vitamin D daily. A month’s supply of Vitamin D supplements is inexpensive and can be purchased over-the-counter.
- ● Get outside: Even 15 minutes of sun exposure can positively impact your mood and your health. Grab your partner, a coworker or your dog for a stroll around the block.
- ● Add Vitamin D-dense foods to your diet: Try adding salmon, herring, eggs or mushrooms to your daily meal plan to boost your Vitamin D intake.
“Almost 40% of Americans have a Vitamin D deficiency,” says Dr. Scott. “Adding Vitamin D consistently into your diet can make a positive impact on your mood and health.”
Boost your serotonin levels
Shorter daylight hours can also have an impact on serotonin, the happiness hormone. The change from long, sunshine-filled days to early winter sunsets can impact your hormone levels. Less serotonin causes your body to give different cues for being hungry and tired — which can leave you feeling a little dazed and unfocused.
“Serotonin is an important part of your mental health,” says Dr. Scott. “To keep your serotonin levels balanced, our team suggests exercising for 30 minutes each day, eating nutrient-rich foods and taking advantage of natural sunlight whenever you can.”
And remember: the winter passes quickly in the Lowcountry. Use autumn and winter as an opportunity to make minor adjustments to your habits and routines — and be ready to kick off spring stronger than ever.
Find a doctor
For more information or to find a primary care doctor, please call (843) 402-CARE or visit rsfh.com.