November marks the end of summer time, the time in March when we have to put our clocks forward. Summertime is often praised for giving us an extra hour of sunshine at the end of the day, which is very welcome after a long cold winter, but also means the onset of sleep problems for many Americans.
By putting the clocks forward in the spring, we lose an hour of sleep. For me, this loss of sleep leads to daytime sleepiness for a few weeks before my body gets used to waking up “an hour earlier”. In others, this can lead to the development of insomnia, and as the days get shorter in the fall, mood swings due to a seasonal affective disorder may appear.
Lack of sleep can be even more damaging for shift workers. As the author of our cover story reports, approximately 5 to 10% of people who work outside of the traditional 9-5 schedule, including healthcare workers, develop Shift Work Disorder (SWD). Shift work affects the body’s normal circadian rhythm and leads to excessive sleepiness. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, cognitive impairment, and even cancer.
Family doctors play an important role in screening patients for sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and SWD. A detailed medical history, sleep log, and actigraphy can help doctors diagnose these conditions.
With the end of summer time and the onset of shorter days and longer nights, now is the time to get out the lightboxes, spend time outdoors, prioritize sleep when possible, and exercise to keep you mental and physical throughout the winter to stay. See a psychotherapist or sleep expert for help treating SWD or seasonal affective disorder.
To say goodbye to autumn and hello to winter, here at The Clinical Advisor we wish everyone happy and healthy holidays and a new year!
Nikki Kean, director
The clinical advisor
From November / December 2021 of the Clinical Advisor