How I handle the health impact of daylight saving time

Time changes can affect patients' sleep patterns, moods, and functioning

Jennifer van Amerom avatar

by Jennifer van Amerom |

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It’s been over two weeks since we were required to “spring forward” for the arrival of daylight saving time (DST). As a neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) patient, I’m not a fan. While the concept was introduced as a way to maximize daylight hours during the warmer months, its effects on health, particularly for rare disease patients, are often overlooked.

I rely heavily on routine. When DST happens, I’m always left feeling confused and discombobulated.

One of DST’s most noticeable effects is its disruption of sleep patterns. Even a one-hour shift can throw off the body’s internal clock, leading to difficulties with falling asleep and waking up. For patients already struggling with sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, this disruption can exacerbate their symptoms and contribute to increased fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

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Sleep has never been comfortable for me since my NMOSD diagnosis. I can’t stay in any position for multiple hours, so the DST change is additionally frustrating.

The advent of DST can also significantly affect my mood. Some patients experience mood swings, irritability, or depression as their bodies adjust to the new time schedule. For those with preexisting mood disorders, such as depression or seasonal affective disorder, the onset of DST can worsen those symptoms, making it crucial to monitor mental health during this period. I always find it difficult to assess my moods at this time, as they could be affected by my sleep disruption.

The shift in sleep patterns and circadian rhythms can impair cognitive function and reaction times, which I’m sure could lead to a higher risk of workplace injuries and car or other accidents. With a lack of sleep plus the pins and needles that can happen in my extremities, I tend to have mishaps in the kitchen. I’ve been known to drop mugs, though not, as of now, with hot beverages in them.

Strategies for coping

It’s important to navigate these DST challenges in ways that work for you. Here are four strategies I use.

  • I stay educated on DST’s potential health effects and try to stay mindful of any changes in my sleep patterns or moods. I also share these effects with my loved ones so they’re aware that I may be struggling for a bit.
  • I focus on my sleep habits. If my body gets tired during the day, I’ll allow myself that extra nap. I hone in on my good sleep hygiene and create a restful sleep environment to minimize the time change’s impact.
  • I gradually adjust my medication schedule, one of the biggest changes I make to accommodate the DST transition. This change applies to my use of occasional sleep aids, as well.
  • Finally, I focus on my self-care. DST prompts my need for “me time.” I look at my exercise routine, implement relaxation techniques, and spend more time outdoors during daylight hours.

By being proactive and offering support to other NMOSD patients, we can help mitigate the negative effects of daylight saving time on our health and ensure a smoother transition into this new time schedule.

Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.


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