How Changing The Clock Changes Your Brain

Posted by on March 18, 2017 in Hazards, Issues & Diseases, Health with 0 Comments

Does Our Body Clock Know When Our Most Productive Hours Are? Barbara Sinclair for CLN

 

By Power Of Positivity

Daylight savings time is a fairly modern invention and it became a popular idea for practical and financial reasons. When people first used artificial light, they had to either burn either gas or oil lamps. The use of these fuels cost money, and the more dark hours that people were awake, the more money it took to light the home.

As lighting technology evolved, electrical bills made for a similar financial problem. By changing the time on the clock, we could save money by keeping the lights on less time that we were awake. At the other end of the clock in the morning, farmers were getting up with first light to work their fields no matter what the clock said.


Daylight Savings Time and Your Brain

Due to the tilting of the Earth on its axis at the Winter Equinox, we in the Northern Hemisphere loose precious hours of daylight while those in the Southern Hemisphere experience the reversed seasons. According to timeanddate.com, legislators in Canada were the first to propose that we simply shift our clocks to say that when the nights are too long, we extend waking hours by moving the clock forward an hour.

When the sun would be setting at around 6pm, we shift our clocks to say that sunset is now at 7pm, giving us an ‘extra’ hour of daylight. Time is a fluid concept in the sense that we have artificially assigned a number to the hour of the day. For example, the number 12 represents either noon or midnight. But we could just as easily call noon by the number 4 or 8.

According to the American Journal of Physiology, daylight savings time can have detrimental effects on the human brain, partly due to decreased levels of melatonin. The researchers say ‘We recently reported that humans have mechanisms, like those that exist in other animals, which detect changes in day length and make corresponding adjustments in the duration of nocturnal periods of secretion of melatonin and of other functions. We detected these responses in individuals who were exposed to artificial “days” of different durations.’

Our human senses have evolved to be able to detect changes in the natural light around us. The ability to detect small changes in light resulted in ancient humans developing the ability to increase secretion of melatonin and of other functions as they sleep. However, modern man isn’t adapting well to changes in daylight savings time.

Research shows that our use of artificial light has reduced our natural ability to detect daylight changes as the seasons change. The scientists say ‘The results of this study suggest that modern men’s use of artificial light suppresses responses to seasonal changes in the natural photoperiod that might otherwise occur.’

Circadian Rhythm and Your Mental Health

The amount of daylight we are exposed to can affect mental health by increasing the risk for depression. Depression from a lack of sunlight is a very real mental health condition. Sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder are those who feel the ‘Winter Blahs’ particularly strongly as symptoms that are like those of a depressed mood. The winter season with less sunlight can cause a lack of appetite, lack of energy, lack of desire to do anything, depressed feelings, and withdrawing from social activities.
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