Daylight saving time: Why are the clocks changed twice a year?
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Thanks to digital watches and smartphones, you won’t have to go around changing the clocks on everything when the clocks go back on Sunday. However, there is one clock you might need to re-set: your body clock. Daylight savings time can upset your sleep routine, but here are some tips from a sleep expert on how to get a good night’s sleep when the clocks go back.
The clocks go back this weekend, on Sunday, October 31 at 2am, giving us an extra hour in bed.
While many of us will be excited to enjoy an extra hour of snooze, it can confuse your body, causing you to feel groggy and “jet-lagged” in the days following.
Dr Verena Senn is a sleep expert at Emma – The Sleep Company, she said: “Daylight saving jet lag is something many of us take a few days to adjust to, but there are ways to help your mind and body prepare for the shift.”
Adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep per night, while teenagers need more at eight to 10. Children need up to 13 hours of sleep every night.
An extra hour in bed may sound like a good thing, but the clocks going back means the mornings will stay darker for longer, and the sun will set earlier.
This can affect your sleep pattern, Dr Verena explains: “It takes a few days for our internal clocks to adjust to time changes.
“This can disrupt the sleep cycle noticeably which can present itself in a variety of different ways, including trouble falling asleep at night, feelings of grogginess and irritability; even affecting the regulation of the core body temperature and blood pressure.
“Our body’s circadian rhythms (sometimes called body clocks) are linked to a central circuit located just behind the root of your nose in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
“Sensitive to light, the SCN sends signals to the brain which can have major influences on some bodily functions.
“During periods of darkness, the SCN tells the pineal gland to produce melatonin – a hormone that is key in helping to induce sleep.
“When the clocks go back and we experience changes in light this can wreak havoc on the usual cycle of hormone production which can lead to poorer sleep quality.”
These are Dr Verena’s top tips for getting a good night’s sleep when the clocks go back.
1 Start going to bed earlier
Dr Verena says: “A few days before the time change, start going to bed about 15 to 30 minutes earlier than usual to allow the body to get some extra sleep in.”
This will stop your ‘new’ bedtime from feeling too early to nod off.
2 Get plenty of natural light during the day
There are plenty of benefits to getting outside every day, including helping you to sleep better.
Dr Verena says: “It’s a good idea to give your body your right amount of light at the right time.
“First thing in the morning trying to seek bright sunlight both helps to keep you alert during the day and fall asleep better at night.”
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3 Put your phone away before bed – or switch to night mode
Dr Verena says: “Bright, blueish light (including from electronic devices) should be avoided in the evening as this can affect your melatonin production.
“Instead, turn devices to ‘night mode’ or opt for red light bulbs. Red light therapy exposure has been found to increase melatonin levels, boosting the quality of sleep.”
4 Don’t take any naps
Sometimes you can’t help falling asleep on the sofa after a long day, but Dr Verena warns this could leave you feeling even more tired.
Dr Verena says: “While it can be difficult to avoid naps when we’re feeling a little drowsy from the daylight changes, it’s important to try and do so.
“Adenosine – a substance produced by the body as it consumes energy – helps to turn up sleep-inducing regions in the brain and increases the urge to sleep.
“Taking naps throughout the day breaks down this adenosine and can leave you not tired enough to fall or stay asleep at night.”
5 Improve your ‘sleep hygiene’
Dr Verena says: “I would suggest looking into your behavioural and environmental practices around your bedtime – we call this ‘sleep hygiene’.
“Having good sleep hygiene means creating conditions promoting sleep such as relaxing in the time before bed, keeping your bedroom at the right temperature, and avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening.”
6 Keep the same bedtime every day
Even with the clocks going forward, try to stick to your routine.
Dr Verena says: “One of the best pieces of advice which applies throughout the year is to stick to a fixed sleep schedule.
“Keeping to a regular pattern allows your body to understand when sleep is due and make it easier for you to sleep at this time.”
This advice also applies to having a big lie in on your day off or staying up late on the weekend, which can disrupt your sleep for days afterwards.
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