Daylight saving: how the clocks going forward can impact your hormones
Lighter days are coming – but here’s what we need to know about how this new rhythm will impact our bodies.
After the dark, cold gloom of winter, the promise of spring is something we all look forward to each year. And indeed, on 26 March at 1am, the clocks will go forward by an hour, ushering in British Summer Time and the long, light evenings that come with it. But as well as boosting our mood and bolstering our social plans (the long-awaited return of pub gardens, anyone?) daylight saving time may have more of an impact on us than we think.
According to Dr Martin Kinsella, a hormone expert and co-founder of hormone mapping clinic BioID Health, the changing of the clocks alters the body’s rhythmic production of hormones such as melatonin and cortisol, which are associated with sleep and stress respectively.
“In simplistic terms, hormones are chemical messengers which travel around your bloodstream, telling the body what to do and how to feel,” he explains. “There have been a number of studies which have suggested that there are clear, seasonal patterns that can be noticed when it comes to our hormones. This is to be partly caused by the change in melatonin levels during the year as sunshine and daylight levels change.”
One such pattern is the pituitary hormones, which control many of the processes in the body including metabolism, growth, reproduction and blood pressure. These peak in the summer, which seems to suggest that humans possess an internal clock that somehow impacts our hormones in a way that lines up with the seasons.
Because while we tend to think of key chapters in our life such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause as being the only time that hormones come into play, the truth is that our hormones influence our health, both psychologically and physiologically, each and every day. As Dr Kinsella stresses, it’s important to remember that hormones impact more than just our mood: they enable daily bodily functions, reproduction, movement, cognitive function and so much more.
How daylight saving impacts your hormones
So as well as checking your devices have changed to the new time, according to Dr Kinsella, after the clocks go forward, you may have less PMS and may not ovulate as frequently. “Some research has also suggested that pre-menstrual symptoms aren’t as strong in the summer. This could be because sunshine increases levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which causes an egg to develop,” he explains.
But that’s not all. We also – thankfully – might feel happier and more positive in the warmer months as morning light increases levels of luteinising hormone, which causes both oestrogen and progesterone to be released in different parts of the menstrual cycle, and triggers ovulation.
Whatever the time of year, though, Dr Kinsella says it’s important to track your cycle so that you can better understand how it works and quickly become aware of any changes.