How this weekend's extra hour in bed could negatively impact your brain

While you might be celebrating the fact you get to bag an extra hour in bed tonight, we’ve got some bad news.

Even though that extra hour of shut eye is very much welcomed, we’re actually entering the darkest time of the year and this could be having a serious impact on our brains, according to one expert.

Dr Elisabeth Philipps, a clinical neuroscientist from the health and wellbeing brand, fourfive, warns that the brain can struggle to adjust to the decreased amount of sunlight we’re going to see now once the clocks go back.

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘When the clocks go back the days feel shorter and people find themselves waking up in the dark and going to bed in the dark, too.

‘Reduced daylight can be the cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).’

When we experience daylight, she explains, messages are sent to the body’s internal clock located deep in a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus from the eye’s retina.

From this, the brain then signals to the adrenal glands to release cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, which also helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle, as cortisol levels are higher when it’s light and run low in the dark – something we’re about to feel with longer nights and shorter days.

As the body experiences this natural morning rise in cortisol, it sends a chain reaction throughout our body to tell it to wake up, get moving and start the day.

According to Dr Philipps, this is why we feel so much more prepared to take on the day during the summer than we do when we try to get up on dark winter mornings.

So how can we trick our brains into giving us this hit when we wake up, now that things are about to get darker and more miserable now that the clocks have gone back?

‘The main focus to reduce the impact of daylight savings changes this winter on your brain and body is to increase the amount of light intensity your eyes are receiving,’ Dr Philipps advises. ‘Waking yourself up using a SAD light or alarm can be a great artificial way to help kickstart that cortisol response nice and early in the day so your body clock isn’t working on delay.

‘Focus on really brightening up the space around you and getting outside into the open air as much as you can. 

‘It may be a colder time of year but getting your layers on and exposing your eyes, brain and body to as much natural light as possible – taking breaks from work to get out whilst it’s still bright – can increase your body’s serotonin levels and will keep the levels of cortisol higher than staying indoors in the dark and warmth.’

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