What happens in our body with the time change?

The time change allows for longer days, since it gets dark later, but it also alters circadian cycles, causing various disorders and cognitive consequences.

Experts from the U. de Chile explain what is happening with our body and provide recommendations to better adapt to this imbalance.

What happens in our body with the time change?

Wake up in the dark, but leave work with light. This is the summer time offer that begins this Saturday, September 10 at midnight, at which time the clocks must be advanced 60 minutes to start marking one in the morning on Sunday 11. How does this gap impact our body, brain and routine?

Specialists from the U. de Chile respond and provide recommendations to better adapt to this change.

The new schedule will be in force for seven months, until April 1st. 2023according to the indication given by the Ministry of energy, entity in charge of this dynamic that can cause sleep disorders and even, in certain specific groups of the population, the need for medical care. Irritability, drowsiness, lack of concentration and an effect similar to jetlag are some of the symptoms.

For Margarita Borquezacademic of Department of Psychology of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the U. de Chilethis time variation has various implications for our health.

“It is the least flattering for our well-being, despite the fact that it is popular because more daylight hours are perceived in the afternoons. However, starting the day in the dark has a great impact on the levels of sleepiness of people, especially in the first hours that coincide with the start of classes, of the working day. And this is accompanied by imbalances in our hormonal and physiological cycles, which prepare us for the day. For example, cortisol has a maximum peak early in the morning and this should coincide with the light of dawn to promote waking up with more energy, which is what allows us to get out of bed and this would not be happening if we woke up in the dark. ”Explain.

On the contrary, having morning light helps to synchronize our biological rhythms and -therefore- to regulate the different hormonal and physiological cycles.

In fact, the impact of waking up and starting the day with more light has been studied and the results are convincing. For the same reason, the specialists agree that it would be better to stick with a definitive timetable, that of winter.

“When there are interruptions in these rhythms, it has multiple cognitive consequences, increased drowsiness, attentional levels, affective, increased anxiety, stress, mood, hormonal, it affects our entire system. This is critical when the alteration of the rhythms is constant, for example, in those who work in systems of night shifts”warns the psychologist and academic from the U. de Chile.

These time changes alter our circadian cycle, says the Dr Alonso Quijadasleep neurologist, academic and faculty of the Clinical Hospital of the University of Chile.

Circadian cycles (from the Latin circa ‘around’ and dies ‘day’) are rhythmic oscillations of the functioning of the organism around 24 hours, alternating cycles of light/heat/day and dark/cold/night. Living beings have biologically evolved with this ‘pulse’, so all our physiological machinery is designed with this rhythm.

“In the night cycle, our species has developed an extremely complex function called ‘sleep’, which is characteristically behavioral and nocturnal in quiescence. Our mood, attention and hormones cycle around 24 hours. However, our society works with increasingly less marked and irregular cycles, which generates a decoupling between biological and social cycles, causing sleep disorders”explains Professor Quijada.

Although these changes in light levels affect the entire population, the most vulnerable group are children and the elderly. Also those people who work in shift systems.

The doctor. Louis Riscopsychiatrist of Clinical Hospital of the University of Chilesay what “There is a group of vulnerable people who are very affected by the time change. They can enter periods or cycles similar to jetlag, adding small anxious and mood disorders. Although it may not be so significant to alter our routine for an hour, for those vulnerable people it can be the straw that overflows the camel’s back and suffer clinical disorders, that is, they must see a doctor.

“This decoupling of cycles means that the general population, but mainly in children and older adults, during the first three days, are the most affected with a series of emotional and somatic manifestations, so they are suggested to improve their sleep hygiene and replan your day in advance”advises Dr. Quijada.

Is it justified to change the schedule twice a year?

“In Chile, in order to make better use of electricity, time changes were determined by law for decades. This law may need to be rethought, as current technological changes could override it. The suggestion is to keep the winter schedule to take advantage of the morning hours with light”, says Dr. Quijada.

match this point Margarita Borquez. “It takes days to weeks to recover. Sleep may take a few days, but the rhythm of hormone secretion takes several weeks. Therefore, the most recommended is not to have schedule changes during the year. It has been a discussion for years, and despite the fact that there is a consensus that winter time is best, this has not permeated decision-making. This goes against the recommendations to improve the quality of sleep of the population, which is to maintain stable sleep and wake patterns «says Professor Bórquez.

Specialists agree that the best recommendation to overcome this alteration is to have good sleep hygiene, for a better quality of sleep: have a set time to sleep and wake up, fall asleep before 11 p.m., do not do vigorous exercise before bedtime, do not eat late or at night, use the bed to sleep, establish a bedtime routine (put on pajamas, brush teeth, etc.), control the room light to sleep in the darkamong other.