Daylight Saving Time and Bipolar Disorder

How time changes affect bipolar, and the steps you can take to lessen the impact.
Image by Gabe Raggio from Pixabay

I have a love-hate relationship with fall. On the positive side, I love fall colors, anything pumpkin flavored, and the chance to break out sweaters. Over on the negative side, I dislike gray cloudy skies; I despise what cold weather does to my skin; and I abhor the disruption created by the end of daylight saving time.

If you have bipolar disorder, your brain rebels against change. It’s the reason routine is so important to maintaining your balance. The more things you keep consistent, the more stable you will be.

Yet, for some stupid reason, much of the world still honors daylight saving time. Both the start and the end can have a devastating effect on bipolar disorder. 

Little things like time changes and working the night shift can have a massive impact on your stability. What can you do to minimize the blow? Here are three things that help me.

Start Today!

Think Ahead

The first thing to do to help with the struggles brought on by Daylight Saving Time is to think ahead. For me, that means scheduling less activity in the weeks before and after a time change. It’s important for me to spend more time at home to rest and relax. 

Why one hour creates so much trouble, I can’t say. Something about the shift throws my entire sleep pattern into chaos. It’s not just me and not just bipolar. In fact, statistics show a six percent increase in fatal car accidents in the week following a time change. Obviously, when God created us, time changes were not part of the plan. The jolt can be too much for our poor minds.

If you reflect on how previous time changes affected you, plan accordingly. Think about how things went last time. Reflect on what helped and what made things worse. If your memory is anything like mine, this is a great thing to write in your journal. If I don’t write it down, I won’t remember it tomorrow let alone in six months from now.

A cartoon sun with a clock saying no to a time change. | The effects of Daylight Saving Time on bipolar disorder and steps you can take to lessen the impact on your mental health. | #bipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness
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Adjust Gradually

A one hour shift hitting all at once carries quite a wallop. Knowing that, try to change five-minute increments. Start getting up and going to bed five minutes earlier (or later depending on the season.) Add another five minutes every couple of days until the change takes effect. When the time change hits, you’ll be pretty close to where you need to be.

Adjusting to a five-minute shift every few days is much less traumatic than an hour all at once. Of course, this requires some planning. If you’re wanting to only shift five minutes every three days, you need to start a month before the time change.

postit scrabble to do todo
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

Stick to your routines

The most important step you can take to lessen the impact of Daylight Saving Time is to stick to your other routines. Continue to take your medications at the same time every day. Get out of bed every morning at the right time. Allowing yourself to linger in bed will only aggravate things.

Continue to go to work or school and say active with your daily habits. The more consistency you can keep in your life, the less disruptive the time change will be.

The bipolar brain is resistant to change. Sudden change, like the change in time, can feel like running into a wall. If you think ahead, adjust in small increments, and stick to your routines, you can lessen the impact.

Until next time, keep fighting.

A cartoon sun sticking out its tongue. | The effects of Daylight Saving Time on bipolar disorder and steps you can take to lessen the impact on your mental health. | #bipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness
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  1. Good topic appropriately focused on the recent time change! I absolutely think that DST has affected my moods in the past. I have a long history of spring manias, often starting around this time. As the tulips pop up, so often so do I. I really like and appreciate your suggestions on how to possibly curb/fight this. I’ll admit that my moods have been quite level for over a year, but I don’t wish that to change. As a double whammy I will be traveling internationally soon. Yet another topic that is along these lines.

    1. Spring is my manic season too usually followed by a late summer or fall depression.

      Travel is always a headache with bipolar. I need to write about that.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Keep fighting!

      1. Thanks, Scott! Yes, travel is a good topic to consider featuring.

        Luckily right now I don’t feel like I’m “fighting” anymore. I’ve been coasting along nicely for a little over a year now. It’s nice to have this break. I won’t be holding my breath for any hell to break loose. Just trying to use my healthy living skills, take my meds as I should, etc. I do need to start some of the preps and precautions you suggested to deal with the time zone issue for my upcoming trip. Where I’m going is 6 hours behind where I am now.

        1. That’s great that things have been stable. It’s a gift.

          Six hours is a big jump, but if you can allow yourself enough rest when you first get there, you should be able to adjust fairly quickly.

          Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  2. Hi Scott, I am not sure why we persist with the Daylight Savings Time nonsense. It takes me weeks to recover from it. I usually stick to my routine as much as possible, but something about the sun going down around 5 in the evening unnerves me. I like as much sunlight as I can get. It makes me happy! I do love fall, but I could do without this changing the clock nonsense. We should all petition our employees in the government to stop it. I think they forget they work for us. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your blog. Have a wonderful week ahead.

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