Time change causes fall into depression - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Time change causes fall into depression

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - In a few weeks, residents of the Tennessee Valley will have to adjust their time pieces one hour back in observance of Daylight Saving Time ending. 

While this doesn't cause most people's circadian rhythms to go out of balance, a small percentage of people suffer from depression because of the earlier sunset, shorter daylight hours, and colder weather. 

The condition goes by many names.

"Seasonal Affective Disorder. Other terms for it are the 'Winter Blues', 'Winter Depression'," said Nancy Holland of the Parkridge Valley Medical Group in Chattanooga.  She often has a few more people in her office after the time change. 

She also said that the condition is not just a state of mind.  Real physical changes are triggered by the time shift. 

"That difference can make a major difference in their dopamine, serotonin uptakes in regard to how it affects them," explained Holland.

One positive result of switching to standard time for the winter is its affect on sleep, according to Dr. Andrew Vernon of the Chattanooga Sleep Center.  He said for most people, it helps them rest better. 

"The darkness may allow people to sort of start to settle down earlier," explained Dr. Vernon.

One of his long-time patients, Tonia Purcell, suffers from narcolepsy, a condition which causes her to fall asleep uncontrollably. 

Late fall and winter are her favorite times of year.  She has found the extra hours of darkness help her control her narcolepsy possibly because she naturally sleeps better at night.  This helps her wake better when her alarm clock sounds.

"I know waking up in the morning is drastically different," said Purcell.

So, if you find yourself feeling a bit down this winter, Holland said to step outside more often during the day.  She also suggested taking good care of your body and not becoming a hermit.

"Regular exercise, nutritional diet, and being able to be socially active," said Holland.

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