End Of Daylight Saving Time: How To Cope With Darker Days

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Autumn Time Change

N.Y. (CBS News) — This weekend marks the end of daylight saving time, and just about everyone in the U.S. will need to set their clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. Sunday.

While most Americans will revel in the extra hour of sleep, for some people the shift can have a significant impact on health, and in particular their mood.

For those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the shorter days and longer nights that come this time of year can exacerbate the condition.

About half a million Americans suffer from SAD, while another 10 to 20 percent may suffer from a milder form of seasonal blues, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

While the cause of SAD is unknown, research has found some biological clues.

“The lack of light can impact our biological functioning,” Louisa Sylvia, Ph.D., director of psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Clinic and Research Program, told CBS News. “We’re not making as much melatonin as usual, which helps with our hormone functioning and as a result it can lead to symptoms of depression such as fatigue, loss of interest in things, and lack of motivation, and it can snowball into a full-on depressive episode.”

Symptoms of SAD include feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day; low energy; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed; trouble sleeping; changes in appetite or weight; difficulty concentrating; and social withdrawal.

Women are diagnosed with SAD four times more often than men. Young adults and people with a family history of other types of depression are also more likely to experience it.

If you noticed an extreme dip in mood coinciding with the darker, colder days of winter, experts recommend visiting your doctor and asking for blood tests.

“Ask for vitamin D, B12 and iron levels, and get your thyroid levels checked,” Dr. Vatsal Thakkar, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine, told CBS News. “If these are too low they may be bringing you down.”

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