The Sensory Implications of Daylight Saving Time

Monday morning, as I stirred from the haze of sleep, I caught a sliver of light peeping in through the slats of our bedroom blinds. Light hasn't poured into our bedroom that early since the summer, and so for a quick second, I couldn't place the season or make sense of the time. It's chilly but it's bright but it's early. I normally don't "compute" so well first thing in the morning, especially when it comes to making sense of the sensory world around me, and I felt a gentle cascade of anxiety swell and dissipate. It felt much later than the alarm clock suggested. Much cooler out than the light implied. Where was I? What was going on? Why did life feel so wonky even before I'd even stepped out of bed?

And then I remembered. Daylight Saving Time ended on Sunday. 

This clock is happy because he's clearly insane

I made my morning smoothie, laced up my sneakers, threw on a coat, and moved out the door for my brisk morning walk around the neighborhood. It's a brief foray into the sensory world, a mini-exposure-therapy, if you will, for a woman who works blissfully remotely, and so doesn't always have an excuse to step outside and face the intensity of the world she can't always process properly. These days, this walk is typically relatively pleasant. I watch the faces of school children, cheeks rosy from the early November wind, as they trot alongside their parents clutching backpacks. I coo at babies and smile at dogs and their owners. I don't think too much about sensory input, aside from the joys of spotting the daytime moon on a clear, blue morning.

On Monday, completely discombobulated, steps out of our apartment I smelled something old and fishy. A truck chugged by and I clamped my hands over my ears. The giggles of children whirring by on Razor scooters made me leap closer to the sides of the buildings. I fought the urge to run my fingers along the concrete and glass as I strode ever further down the street. Under my breath, I quietly cursed Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt for instituting Daylight Saving Time in the first place.

Why, Gentlemen. Why?

The rule of thumb in the sensory community is this: if a neurotypical is struggling with something, especially with some sort of change or sensory challenge, there's a good chance a sensory person is struggling tenfold. Is the hum emanating from the airplane engine bothering you as you soar above the clouds? The person with the Sensory Modulation Disorder subtype of SPD, especially one who avoids sensory input, is probably already scaling the plastic walls and digging in their carry-on bags in search of ear protection. Do you wince as the swirl of police lights sporadically light up the night as you drive past a squad car on the highway? This same person with SPD, again an avoider, is momentarily blinded and disoriented and probably struggling to keep their car on the road to begin with. Can't quite get the hang of a dance routine or tennis with the in-laws or playing darts with the after-hours coworker crew without maiming a colleague? The person with the Sensory Based Motor Disorder subtype of SPD is probably frustrated and embarrassed, feeling clumsy and uncoordinated, making you look like Venus Williams. They may have already even given up, even as you try your damnedest to kick-ball-change.

Daylight Saving Time is miserable for neurotypicals and sensory people alike. No one likes to suddenly lose an extra hour in their day, and for those who claim that ending Daylight Saving Time means that they get to sleep even later, talk to me when your body clock has you up at an ungodly hour anyhow. Everyone - from parents to pup-owners - fight the haze and disorientation of Daylight Savings.

Now envision that you have neurological differences that make you incredibly sensitive. Imagine that you rely on certain basic, rigid patterns and routines to keep you feeling safe in a body and brain that are perpetually telling you that you're in danger. Think of the importance of sleep in this routine, of the loss of sleep leading to intense neurological episodes of tears, detachment, and anxiety where your eyes can't make sense of sight and your ears can't make sense of sound and you lose your footing in an already precarious world. Visualize your reliance on certain principles of time and space, of light and dark, of stop and go because they're not always felt internally. Picture dreading change because predictability is the only real guide you have in a world you often can't understand.

And now set the clocks back one hour and watch chaos ensue.


I'm not even sure if this post is coherent. I left my authoritative, cogent writing voice back in October, along with a sensical circadian rhythm and a watch setting that displayed the time one hour later.

Tonight, as it gets incredibly dark supremely early, I won't mind Daylight Saving for a chance few minutes. Most people in both the neurotypical and sensory communities hate when it gets dark so quickly, but I love the logical, fixed division of evening = darkness and daytime = light like the predictable, reassuring ebb and flow of the tide. I'll feel settled then for a few moments, sleepy but grounded in the cool comings-on of the evening, thick with autumn.

Shameless Self Promotion: Want to learn about SPD from a delayed-diagnosis sensory adult's perspective and hear more from yours truly? Pre-order Making Sense: A Guide to Sensory Issues today!


  1. Ugh, I feel ya. I hate changes both ways, but especially the one back to standard time. I absolutely hate it when it gets dark early. I've noticed for years now that it totally messes up my eating schedule, since my brain generally evaluates how hungry I am based on the light in the sky, and it also makes my anxiety skyrocket. I have one of those things that is supposed to simulate natural light, but I have to turn it towards the wall and wear sunglasses whenever I have it on to avoid sensory overload. :P

    1. This made me smile because it's SO SPD! Makes me want to create a meme: figures out how to overcome sensory-related DST issues/must wear sunglasses to avoid sensory overload. Oh this sensory life, you slay me. :)

  2. Im switching bedsides. Since i sleep on the east side.

    Im so intuned with the light that i rarely use a clock. In fact i dont own a watch. Well i hate how it feels on my wrist anyway. #spdlifeissues

  3. I'm a 35 year old male that hates certain clothing textures and then it must fit and look just right. I can only wear certain colors and to make things worse,I have some OCD-Like symptoms. Several years ago I was told that I had tactile defensiveness which seemed to make sense. However, after doing some research I don't know if I still have what it takes to get the help I need. For 35 years I have been told that it's all in my head by doctors. Now, that I'm positive I have some form of SPD and seeing what it takes to overcome this, I need help! I need to be able to teach my family (especially, my father who has a 2nd grade education) what this disorder is all about. Even though I have some Nursing education and understand it myself I don't know how to explain it to my family. I now suffer from depression,anxiety and isolation just to name a few which makes this important first step seem impossible. Please help! I don't know how much longer I can take this!

    1. Sean, email me at, would be happy to help!


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