DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – As the end of daylight saving time approaches, experts are reminding people to be cognizant of the impact the time change can have on their bodies.

Dr. Joseph Allen, a regional medical director at Premier Health, said even though you may not realize it, having fewer daylight hours has the ability to alter the way in which your body functions.

“It messes with a lot of things,” he said. “So think about the folks that go into work early and leave late. Depending on their work environment, they may not see the sun for several days in a row, especially if it gets cloudy out on the days that they’re off. So that affects you quite a bit as far as your mental health.”

Some of the mental challenges that result from those limited daylight hours include increased cases of depression and anxiety during the winter months. One of the most common, said Dr. Allen, is known as seasonal affective disorder.

“Seasonal affective disorder is really kind of seasonal depression if you want to think of it that way,” Dr. Allen explained. “It’s a disorder that [occurs] when seasons change… usually in the winter, at least here in Ohio. So as the winter kind of creeps up and we get less sunlight, it’s colder, its darker, we start to kind of have these depressive type symptoms.”

Many people, he said, don’t even realize they’re having these symptoms, and typically just attribute it to feeling “crumby”. However, if one is not attentive to their body, including their sleeping patterns, those symptoms may manifest in some dangerous ways.

“The week following the time change, we do see an increase in crashes, and it could be [attributed] to drowsy driving or your body not adjusting to it,” said Pat Brown, AAA driving school supervisor for the Miami Valley. “It takes about a week for your body to get used to that time change.”

He said that’s especially important to pay attention to since drowsy driving accidents were on the rise until the pandemic restrictions contributed to fewer drivers on the road.

“It is a factor that’s out there,” Brown said. “Montgomery County was one of the top five in the nation for drowsy driving accidents or crashes.”

To help prevent accidents resulting from the darkness, Brown recommends waking up earlier to provide more time for travel in the morning, slowing down and allowing more following distance between your vehicle and others, getting the appropriate amount of sleep before driving and using headlights properly.

“If you’re driving downtown or in the city where there’s streetlights, you shouldn’t be using your bright lights,” said Brown. “If you’re outside the city in a rural area or a place in the city that doesn’t have streetlights, then use your bright lights so you can see better. As cars are approaching, you want to dim your bright lights so you don’t blind the other driver. Actually, if you do blind the other driver, it takes them a couple seconds to even get their sight back.”

However, Dr. Allen said there’s a different set of needs required to maintain your mental health.

“Light therapy…salt lamps are one good example. There are other lights as well that help with getting you that UV light that kind of mimics sunlight, if you will. Those are all shown to be beneficial in studies. If you’re not getting the [mental and physical] response you’re looking for, then reach out and certainly talk to someone about that. Staying active is a huge help. There are studies that are out there that show…regular exercise is as effective, if not more effective that the antidepressant medication that we use so readily now.”

He said multivitamins, sleep aids like melatonin and staying away from screens 30 minutes to an hour before bed also helps keep the circadian rhythm in check. And social activities, he added, can be used as a form of mental relief that many people weren’t able to engage in safely last year.

“Try to get that social interaction when you can, as safely as you can,” he said. “When things like the holidays come up, there’s a lot of, obviously, social interactions with family and what have you when holidays hit. Make sure you’re taking advantage of that when you can. I think it helps recharge our batteries at times. Once again, be safe when you’re doing it though.”

For more tips to better adjust to daylight saving time changes, click here.