Immunologist Minelli: “Seasonal affective disorder and mini jet lag are looming”
On the night between Saturday 28 October and Sunday 29 we will move the clock back 60 minutes, bringing us back towards solar time. “We will gain an extra hour of light in the morning but, saying goodbye to summer time, the darkness will arrive earlier. Therefore, it may perhaps be a little sad to think about the end of the summer when we realize that it is only 4 in the afternoon. So much so plus having to deal with the risk of ‘seasonal affective disorder’ or ‘Sad’ and also with ‘mini jet-lag'”. Taking stock of the arrival of solar time for Adnkronos Salute is immunologist Mauro Minelli, responsible for the South of the Italian Foundation for Personalized Medicine.
What is Sad, seasonal affective disorder
Sad “would be ready to loom in the winter months with its low levels of methionine and serotonin, but – observes the expert – our body will eventually be able to find the right solutions to reach new levels of adaptation. And, on the other hand , we can only try again to believe it.”
“For years – recalls Minelli – there has been talk of the abolition of summer time, especially when we look with motivated attention to energy saving policies. But if the introduction of summer time lasting for the entire year can have benefits in terms of energy saving, it may not be so convenient in terms of health”, warns the specialist.
“Since the 1930s – he explains – the term ‘homeostasis’ has made its way into the ordinary medical lexicon to indicate the set of neuro-endocrine, immunological or metabolic processes that the organism implements in order to carry out correctly their functions and thus maintain a good overall state of health. However, environmental stresses can intervene which can alter ordinary physiological activities, positioning them on new levels of adaptation precisely in response to the challenges of the environment. This condition which, in antithesis to homeostasis, some have called ‘allostasis’, can be gradually supported by the organism through specific accommodation processes and then be functionally adopted. But, in the event that the variations exceed the homeostatic limits, their overload could lead to important pathophysiological consequences: from arterial hypertension to variations in intestinal permeability, to altered availability of cortisol”.
Time change and mini jet-lag
“A classic example of an allostatic state – clarifies the immunologist – can be ‘jet-lag’, to be understood as the result of a mismatch between a person’s circadian rhythms and the time of day in the new time zone. During In the first few days, after a flight to a new time zone, the circadian rhythms are still accustomed to the time of the place of departure. Which can affect mood, ability to concentrate, physical and mental performance. Jet symptoms -lag – explains Minelli – cannot be universally declined in a homogeneous way, as they can vary from person to person and can be different from time to time even in the same person. Classically, those who suffer from jet lag experience at least one of the following disorders: disturbances gastrointestinal disorders; reduced interest in food and nutrition; depressed mood and anxiety; tiredness, headache, inability to concentrate, irritability; poor performance in carrying out physical and mental tasks during the new day; and then poor sleep with great difficulty falling asleep at the usual time of night, lacunar insomnia and early awakening”.
The exposure to light factor, continues the expert, “can affect human circadian rhythms. Some studies suggest that, upon arrival in a place with a new time zone, the circadian rhythm, evidently influenced by the time in force in the destination , can adapt more favorably to new environmental situations if the destination is reached in the evening moments of the day, when it is dark. It seems – concludes Minelli – that solar time, with a greater number of hours of darkness in the evening, is more similar to our biological clock, favoring qualitatively more adequate rest thanks also to the natural production of melatonin which is synthesized when it is dark and which, as is known, helps us sleep. And it is obvious that a better quality of sleep ensures greater concentration, both at work and in daily life”.