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Most of the nation gained an hour of sleep early Sunday morning, as people observed the annual "fall back" ritual, but what we lose in the months ahead may be far more significant.
With the time change, we gain an hour of daylight in the morning and lose an hour of daylight in the evening. So, depending on your personal schedule, you might get more daylight or less, and daylight is a critical resource in the body's ability to produce vitamin D.
In our bodies, vitamin D contributes to bone health, to the immune system and to reducing inflammation. In our diet, however, it's comparatively rare. It appears naturally in very few foods, and while it can be added as a supplement, it's created primarily through exposure to sunlight, when the ultraviolet rays from the sun reach our skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.
In a study released earlier this year, researchers warned that shift workers, healthcare workers and people whose jobs keep them indoors may be at an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency. The study recommended that workplace wellness programs make a point of addressing the importance of vitamin D in the hopes of preventing metabolic disorders, psychiatric and cardiovascular disorders, and even cancer.
The winter sun isn't the strongest, but making a point of spending some time outside in the morning or early afternoon can help. Taking trips to warmer weather destinations or making use of UV lamps can also help with vitamin D production in the colder months.
The ending of daylight savings time can have an effect on sleeping habits, and experts recommend going to bed slightly earlier to let your body adjust to the new schedule. Further, the effects of the time change extend to our safety on the roads. For the next several months, people will be spending more time driving in the dark, when there are added hazards as far as visibility and stopping time. We are in the midst of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, when people everywhere are reminded of the dangers of being fatigued at the wheel.
We got an extra hour on Sunday, so please take some time to shine a light on what you can do over the next few months to be healthier and safer.