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Time Change: 3 Ways to Adjust Now That the Darkness Comes Early

Your commute home from work looks a lot different than it did two weeks ago. Here's how to adjust now that it gets darker earlier.

time change clock
Daylight saving time ended the first Sunday of November.
Getty Images/Peter Dazeley

Within this last week or so, you've likely caught yourself feeling like the time is later than it actually is. While we get an hour extra of sleep the day of the time change, the shorter days and early sunsets can leave people feeling out of whack. The end of daylight saving time can also trigger negative health impacts -- including seasonal affective disorder as a result of the decrease in daylight. But just turning the clocks back one hour can mess with your productivity and energy levels and cause sleep deprivation.

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Light and darkness play a huge role in dictating our circadian rhythm, the internal bodily process that signals when it's time to wake up and hit the hay.

According to experts, it can take your body up to seven days to properly adjust to the time change associated with the start and end of daylight saving time. You may feel yourself getting hungry earlier than you typically do -- or drowsier earlier in the evening.

Here are a few ways you can adjust to the time change now that we've "fallen back."

For more on daylight saving time, learn about efforts to make it year-round and how to treat seasonal depression with light therapy.

3 simple ways to adjust to the time change

Go outside and get some sun

The end of daylight saving time marks the start of shorter days and earlier sunsets, when your after-work supermarket trip is lit by the glow of the moon rather than the sun's rays.

Help keep your internal clock consistent by going outside Sunday morning to soak up some daylight right away. 

Fewer daylight hours can also have a negative impact on our mood and energy levels: A stroll outside can boost serotonin and help prevent that drop. 

Keep a regular sleep schedule

Don't use an extra hour of sleep as an excuse to stay up later on Saturday. Go to sleep around your usual time to maintain your regular sleep-wake cycle. 

After the time change, continue to maintain the same bedtime each day to help reset your body's circadian rhythm. Once you get into a consistent pattern, your body will align with your schedule and naturally recognize when it's time to wake up or go to sleep. 

Try a sleep mask

If you like to wake up in the morning on your own time and not the sun's time, for instance 6:30 a.m., try using a sleep mask. There are options that fit comfortably around your face, preventing light from seeping in and waking you up.

What is seasonal affective disorder? 

Also known as seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a collection of symptoms that emerge in the darker months and can include fatigue, depression, oversleeping, weight gain and social withdrawal. If you have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder, your risk of developing SAD is higher, according to the Mayo Clinic.

SAD tends to affect people between November and April and is most common among people in the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast and other regions that experience shorter, darker days and colder winters. 

Recommended treatments for SAD include exercise, healthy eating, a consistent sleep schedule and regular exposure to sunlight. Other options include meditating, decreasing screen time and light therapy

How daylight saving time got started in the first place

The idea of daylight saving was first proposed in 1895 in New Zealand, but it wasn't put into practice until World War I, when Germany used it as a way to save electricity on lighting. The US followed suit, signing DST into law in 1918 to save energy during the war. 

But it was quickly repealed in 1919 after the end of the war due to its unpopularity among citizens.

Since then, the US has had a confusing, back-and-forth relationship with DST. For the most part, states and cities have been left to decide for themselves whether they want to observe the time change or not. This made it difficult for public transportation services and broadcast networks to properly coordinate times. 

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act, which created set dates when the nation would collectively start and end DST. Starting in 2007, most of the US has observed daylight saving time from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. Any state that doesn't want to participate, however, is allowed to pass a law through its legislature.

Not all states observe daylight saving time 

Neither Hawaii nor Arizona observes daylight saving time. In addition, 47 other states have introduced bills to abolish changing the clocks. The measures that were signed into law are either waiting for Congress and the US Department of Transportation to abolish DST nationwide or for neighboring states to join the cause so they don't disrupt regional time zones.

Some argue for permanent daylight saving time, while others, like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, say we should adopt standard time year-round.

In 2022, the Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time permanent year-round, but it has not been approved by the House.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.