Earlier this month, the clocks moved forward an hour marking the end of Daylight Savings Time. It probably took you a few days to adjust and get a good night’s sleep after the time change. By now, you have probably forgotten all about it.
Now, we are in the midst of another influence on our sleeping patterns – progressively shorter hours of sunlight. In Boston, the amount of sunlight we can expect on our shortest day, December 21, is 9 hours. This is 6.25 fewer hours than we experienced on our longest day, June 21.
But could it be something more extreme? Something called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD? First, what is SAD? It is a cluster of symptoms that are more noticeable during limited periods of sunshine – like the months between November and March. One of the symptoms of SAD is sleeping more than usual. However, studies show that people with SAD don’t sleep a lot more than those without. The difference is in the quality of sleep. They just don’t get a good night’s rest which affects their mood and energy levels. Fortunately, only 4 – 6 % of people truly have SAD. And this can be reversed with light therapy during the winter – and the arrival of summer!
So if you find yourself sleeping longer, you are not alone. Half of the global population report sleeping two extra hours when daylight grows shorter. As long as you are enjoying a good night’s sleep, it is most likely part of this seasonal cycle. And remember – exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet will help to promote a good night’s sleep year round.
-Cathy M., Diabetes and Exercise Consultant at Dedham Health