Primal Starter: Daylight Savings Transition

Inline_Live-Awesome-645x445-04I imagine there are a few souls dragging out there today. For some people, sleep is already the hardest area to change because of shift work, young children, etc. Add to this scenario the lost hour that disappears into the ether every March, and the effects can be miserable. Even for the “best” situations, switching the clock (in either direction) leaves a person feeling oddly displaced, like you’re never where you’re supposed to be at any given time. The world is going about its business in the usual routine, but something feels off—and it takes at least a few days to finally settle back into a circadian congruence.

Switching the clocks is just one of those things that underscore how our modern life inevitably strays from natural rhythms. For all but a small fraction of our evolutionary history, humans have equated natural light with awake and dark with sleep. We are still products of that environment, no matter how many bulbs are burning in our houses at 11:00 at night.

In terms of physiology, there’s a legitimate toll to the whole time change project. The circadian rhythm is a powerful physical phenomenon – right down to the molecular level. Hormonal levels, blood pressure, body temperature, even gene activity are directed by it. Although circadian rhythm is ordered and maintained internally, it’s obviously influenced by the external, namely light and dark cycles.

Particularly with the “spring ahead,” more of us find ourselves genuinely struggling. Companies see a rise in workplace injuries because people are tired. For their part, researchers who have analyzed large surveys have even found evidence that suggests we’re wired to stay on standard time. During non-working days, scientists found, “the timing of sleep…follows the seasonal progression of dawn under standard time, but not under DST.” In fact, their study (which also included observation of 50 individuals) concluded that, overall, humans’ circadian rhythm doesn’t truly adjust to daylight savings time period. (The people most negatively impacted, not surprisingly, were the night owls among the group.)

Messing with our bodies’ natural physiological patterns has, as you might expect, real consequences. A study presented to the Society for Neuroscience showed that mice whose day/night cycles were thrown off exhibited “weight gain, impulsivity, slower thinking, and other physiological and behavioral changes.” (Those of us who have ever been sleep deprived can probably identify with these creatures.) Incidentally, metabolic hormones— including insulin—were affected by the day/night cycle changes.

More than ever this week, work with your entrainment options. Get some early sun, and exercise earlier. Dim lights and forgo electronics three hours before bed or even sooner if you can. Shift your meal schedule or consider fasting, a little recognized tool for jet lag, which is essentially what we’re all dealing with today. And good luck dealing with the kids….

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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13 thoughts on “Primal Starter: Daylight Savings Transition”

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  1. The part about children is definitely most difficult to deal with. However, it is eaiser now than in October.

  2. The time change definitely threw me for a loop this time. Working nights makes it hard to get to bed any earlier…I did get out for two walks this morning as well as a quick workout. I always feel it takes a full week to get back to “normal.”

  3. We stay on CST year round – so glad to not have to deal with time changes twice a year!

  4. I have to say that time changes, due to daylight savings time or travel, don’t seem to impact me. I’ve flown to Europe, California, etc. from MN, no issues. True test will be when I fly to Australia (on my Live It List), see if that finally throws me for a loop.

  5. I would have to question the validity of surveys showing that people are “wired” to be on standard time. It’s really just a matter of giving the body time to adjust, which can take a few days. People do okay even on double DST, as during the war. I dislike the early darkness of standard time and always feel more upbeat and energetic with the arrival of DST.

    1. Yea, have to strongly disagree on that one. Having the sun set at 10pm, with the sky still bright until 11, definitely does not leave me feeling refreshed. I’m sleep deprived as it is, being a night owl forced to live in an early birds world. The extra hour of sleep I’d gain in the summer by staying on standard time year round would be a godsend!

  6. I am lucky enough to be on Spring Break so I can ease into the time change in the comfort of my home. 🙂 The sad thing is that we Alaskans lose an hour of our precious morning light- that is just starting to come back to us after months in the dark.

  7. What about the benefits of more light in the evening for outdoor (physical) activities ?
    I feel like those complaining about it in regards of detrimental effects on health are a bit nitpicking…

    1. Do we really need to have the sun setting at 10pm, with the sky still bright until 11? Call if nitpicky, if you will. I’d much rather be able to get to bed at a decent hour, than be able to play frisbee until 11pm. Besides, BBQs, campfires, stargazing, skinny dipping…. the best outdoor activities take place after dark!

  8. I’m definitely reading/bookmarking that study about being wired to stay on standard time! I see far too many people advocating to stay on savings time year round. I feel I’ll need an evidence based argument in the near future.

    For me, the problem isn’t so much the the lack of sleep the morning after, but the fact that the sun sets so bloody late after the time change. In June/July, the sun sets at 10pm where I am, with the sky still very bright until 11. It’s not until after midnight that all the daylight is gone from the sky. I’m a night owl by nature, so I need a few hours of darkness before I can even think about sleeping (I’ve always loved the night, even as a kid. This is probably why I love winter so much, too!). But being forced to live in an early bird world, I still need to be up at 5 or 6 AM if I want a pay cheque. Staying on standard time year round would grant me an extra hour of sleep in the summer months, not to mention that it would give the house an extra hour to cool down before bed.

  9. Regardless of the direction, the switch in time always seems to cause difficulties. Personally, I find both directions are challenging, although it does make sense that we’re wired for standard time.

  10. Today I’m dragging, and it wasn’t the most optimal day to take a mid-term exam. I’m a night owl, and it is harder to reset in the spring than in the fall. This is when I wish we’d just change to a half-hour difference between the two and stay there.

  11. “at least a few days” I feel like a freak for taking like 3 weeks to get back to normal…