Menu Close

clock changes and mental health

clock changes and mental health

Time change can disrupt your internal body clock, also known as the 'circadian rhythm', and affect your mental health.

Clock changes mean shifting to Daylight Saving Time (in March) or Greenwich Mean Time (in October). It may seem harmless but these clock adjustments could affect your mental health.

The clock shift occurs to make the most of daylight and save energy. But this time change can disrupt your internal body clock, also known as the ‘circadian rhythm’. Our bodies get used to a certain schedule, like waking up and going to bed at the same time every day. When we spring forward or fall back, it can take some time for our bodies to adjust. This adjustment period can leave you feeling a bit out of sync, affecting your sleep patterns. 

But that’s not all. The clock change can have broader impacts on your health. Studies have suggested that this shift might be linked to an increase in mood problems and even some health issues. So, while that hour might not seem like much, it’s essential to be aware of how these clock changes can influence your wellbeing.

Common myths about clock changes

everyone adapts easily
to the clock change

Some individuals, especially those with certain medical conditions, may find it challenging to adapt to the clock change. This can lead to sleep disturbances and mood disruptions.

the extra hour of sleep
compensates for sleep loss

When we ‘fall back’ and gain an extra hour of sleep, some believe it compensates for the sleep debt However, your body clock isn’t immediately adjusted. This disruption caused by changing the clocks can lead to sleep disturbances and increased sleepiness in the days.

clock changes are too insignificant
to impact mental health

Even a one-hour shift in time can disrupt your internal body clock and lead to mood disturbances. These seemingly minor changes can have real and sometimes noticeable effects on your mental wellbeing.

When do the clocks change?

In the UK, the clocks spring forward by one hour on the last Sunday in March at 1am and fall back by one hour on the last Sunday in October at 2am. The clocks can change at different times of the year across the world, so if you’re travelling it might be wise to find out if this happening wherever you’re going.

You can check the UK government website for the exact dates of when the clocks change in the UK.

What are the possible effects of the clock change?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD is a condition that can intensify during the clock change. With shorter days and reduced exposure to natural daylight, individuals with SAD may find their symptoms worsening. The changes in sunlight can lead to mood changes, decreased energy and heightened feelings of sadness and fatigue.

Isolation

Clock changes and earlier sunsets can have an isolating effect on individuals. With limited daylight hours, outdoor activities and social interactions may be limited. You might be more inclined to stay indoors, leading to a sense of isolation and social withdrawal.

Depression

The clock change can disrupt sleep patterns and the body clock. These disruptions can contribute to an increased risk of depressive symptoms such as persistent feelings of sadness or suicidal thoughts.

What can I do?

Maintain a Consistent Routine 

Stick to a regular daily schedule, especially for sleep and meal times. Consistency can help regulate your body’s internal clock and reduce the disruption caused by clock changes.

Maximise Natural Light Exposure 

Spend time outdoors during daylight hours. Exposure to natural light can help regulate your body clock and improve mood. Even a short walk during the day can make a difference. 

Stay Active 

Regular physical activity can help boost your mood and energy levels. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine to counteract the potential impact of clock changes on your wellbeing.

Connect with Others 

Don’t let the shorter days lead to isolation. Try to stay connected with friends and family. Social interactions can help combat feelings of loneliness and improve your mood.

Practice Relaxation Techniques 

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious due to the clock change, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or mindfulness. These practices can help you manage your emotions and reduce the impact on your mental health.

support

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies. 

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page. 

Skip to content