Is the extra hour really worth it? How to look after your sleep when the clocks change

An extra hour in bed may not be as good as it sounds.

Is the extra hour really worth it? How to look after your sleep when the clocks change
Image shows a woman lying down, surrounded by lots of different clocks.
Gaining an hour at night can disturb our sleep patterns (Picture: Getty)

We are days away from clocks going back and the end of British Summer Time 2023.

On Sunday October 29, we will be setting our clocks back one hour for Daylight Savings Time (DST). This is done to make the most of the light during the day, giving us brighter mornings.

While gaining an hour in bed may seem like one of the only perks to darker evenings, the clocks moving back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) may actually have longer-term and lasting impacts on our sleep, with experts raising concerns around cardiovascular activities, health and general productivity.

‘You may not think that a one-hour adjustment to your bedtime would make a difference, but it can,’ explains Lisa Artis, deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity.

‘It might only be 60 minutes – but it can be surprisingly challenging, with some struggling to sleep at night and adjust to a different routine.

‘Moving our clocks back an hour resets our circadian rhythm, which means for a few days our own internal body clocks are out of sync with our normal day and night cycles.’

Studies have found that the clocks going backwards can impact our energy and sleep levels, with some people never fully adjusting to the change leading to circadian misalignment, which can lead to severe or chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease.

So how can we limit the impact that DST has on our sleep?

Get outside

Natural light drives our circadian rhythms.

According to the Sleep Foundation, exposure to sunlight can alleviate tiredness and spending time outside can also suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone which is released in the evening to make us feel tired.

‘This is particularly important in winter, as the UK experiences less daylight during this time, and it can be difficult to get as much natural light as we would ideally have,’ explain experts from Coast Road Furniture.

‘Working in natural light can be challenging in the winter, but good opportunities to get outside include the morning commute or a lunchtime walk.’

The fresh air is also great for our mental health and will help to reset our biological clock.

Man Sleeping in Bed
Preparation is key (Picture: Getty Images)

Adjust your sleep beforehand

With two sleeps to go, some people may find it beneficial to gradually adjust their sleeping patterns to maintain energy levels and help to feel more awake when getting out of bed.

‘This is because changing your sleeping pattern gradually is easier than giving your body a sudden shift in its waking and sleeping times,’ Coast Road Furniture experts said.

‘Move into daylight savings gradually instead of suddenly. This can prevent the jet-lag effect that some people experience when they shift between standard and daylight savings time. 

‘Another measure that can also help is gradually changing your mealtimes, as our digestive system contributes to a lot of our hormone production and the regulation of our sleep cycle. 

‘By changing your body’s timetable bit by bit rather than suddenly, you can ensure that you feel more awake.’

Boost your sleep hygiene

The Sleep Charity recommends practising good sleep hygiene to enhance our chances of falling asleep and staying asleep.

This involves a bedroom environment and evening routine that promotes consistent sleep. It includes creating consistent routines, avoiding electronics before bed, limiting caffeine, and creating an ideal and cosy sleep environment.

‘The perfect sleeping environment is cool, quiet, dark and clutter-free,’ says The Sleep Charity.

‘Remember you need a comfortable bed to sleep on, a supportive pillow and appropriate bedding.’

But not too cold, as this can impact our sleep.

‘A room temperature below 12 degrees Celsius can make it harder to drop off, so keep an eye on your room temperature. An ideal bedroom temperature is around 16-18°C,’ The Sleep Charity adds.

Stick to a sleep routine

Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. The Sleep Foundation also suggests getting at least seven hours of sleep each night before and after transitioning to or from DST.

Limit naps

When we are tired, having a nap seems like the perfect solution, but experts warn that having too many naps can negatively impact our ability to fall asleep at night.

According to research by the Sleep Foundation, the ideal nap length is 10 minutes as it allows us to rest without causing us to fall into a slow-wave sleep (a deeper state of sleep). 

They suggest that naps should never exceed 20 minutes, as waking up from a slow-wave sleep can leave us feeling groggy and worse than before.

Most of us will get used to the change within a few days, but if you need any further help with your sleep, then you can contact The Sleep Charity’s National Sleep Helpline for additional support.

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