British Summer Time and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Written by: Fit for Work team | Posted in: Blog

SADBritish Summer Time (BST) has officially begun since the clocks went forward on the last weekend in March. The change meant that we lost out on an hour’s sleep, but it marks the start of longer evenings, warmer temperatures and sunshine (with any luck).

It can take our bodies a little time to adjust to the time change, which can disturb normal sleep patterns. On the bright side, our evenings are getting lighter and you can wave goodbye to morning commutes in darkness.

It is argued that British Summer Time is not only good for physical and psychological health, but also helps to ease the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression, which usually occurs during the winter when the days are getting shorter. SAD, which is also known as ‘winter depression’ causes a variety of symptoms, including:

  • concentration problems;
  • sleep issues;
  • depression;
  • anxiety;
  • lower immune system during the winter months.

These symptoms can have a profound effect on a person’s ability to work. Even the more talked about mental health issues aren’t necessarily well understood, so it can be very difficult for sufferers of SAD who may be struggling to make colleagues and managers appreciate what they are experiencing.

Fortunately, sufferers of SAD report increased energy levels and better productivity once BST kicks in. With lighter evenings, those with fixed work schedules will now have more time to go outside and benefit from leisure activities and sports, to which many of us seem to have an aversion during the cold winter months.

It is important to understand the effect that particular health conditions have on a person’s ability to work and, conversely, how work might affect a person’s health. That’s why the Fit for Work website offers guidance on a whole range of health issues, which can be accessed by GPs, employers and employees. The online resources include guides on work health topics on the advice hub, and the ability to ask specific questions on occupational health topics by emailing a question or taking part in ‘live chat’ (a form of instant messaging). Furthermore, employed people who have been (or are likely to be) off work for four weeks or more, can be referred to Fit for Work by their GP for a free, professional occupational assessment aimed at identifying obstacles preventing them from returning to work.

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