Darker days can mean drearier moods, and the period after autumn’s daylight saving clock reset is always an adjustment. While Seema Bonney, M.D., the founder and medical director of the Anti-Aging & Longevity Center of Philadelphia, says it’s great to get an extra hour of sleep, the loss of afternoon sunlight can deal a real blow to health and well-being.
“The reason sunlight is really important is it helps to activate the hypothalamus, which is that part of the brain that helps to regulate our circadian rhythm and the sleep-wake cycle,” she explains.
Clock shifts can throw off the circadian rhythm and affect the release of certain hormones including sleep-supporting melatonin and feel-good serotonin–causing many people (up to 70% of us in northern states, Bonney estimates) to feel tired and a little melancholy this time of year. Losing an hour of sunlight that you might have otherwise used to get outside to exercise can further aggravate the winter blues.
To get back on track, Bonney recommends prioritizing these four essential health buckets. In addition to restoring a sunnier mood in the weeks ahead, a lot of them will also support health and longevity for the long haul.