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How to Make the Most of the Clock Change | Sleep Hub

Posted by Dr Sophie Bostock on 22nd Oct 2020

How to Make the Most of the Clock Change | Sleep Hub

The last weekend of October signals the official end of summer. The clocks roll back at 2am on Saturday, creating an extra hour to play with. Many of us will sleep through, unaware of our bonus hour, since technology connected to the internet will automatically update itself.

But are we missing a trick if we simply sleep through the night?

Rewards for a Routine

If you wake up at the same time during weekdays and weekends, lingering a little longer in bed this Sunday morning - so that you rise at your normal clock time - could help to ease you into the week ahead. The internal body clocks which control your alertness, digestion, core temperature and so on, take about 24 hours to adjust for every hour’s change in rhythm. If you wind down and get ready for bed on Sunday at your usual time, by Tuesday your master clock should have adjusted to the new ‘timezone’.

Expecting young children to ‘linger’ in bed for an extra hour on Sunday morning may be optimistic, so to ease the transition, you could prepare their body clocks by pushing bedtime and mealtimes 30 minutes later on Friday and Saturday, and waking up 30 minutes later on Saturday morning. (Don’t worry if it’s too late by the time you read this! Stick to the regular bedtime routine, winding down at the same time each night, and within a few days, your kids will adjust too.)

The Perils of Social Jetlag

Research suggests that (at least pre covid), at least a thirds of the population have a different pattern on weekdays and weekends; typically rising an hour or two early during the week, but snoozing longer and going to bed much later at weekends.

This irregular scheduling causes a challenge for our body clocks. Your internal clocks may not all have the chance to sync up with clock time, which can lead to poor quality sleep, feeling fatigued, irritable, and struggling to concentrate every Monday, regardless of the hours of sleep you’ve had.

This ‘social jet lag’ has the same effect as flying across a few timezones every weekend (but without the suntan). In the long term, social jetlag increases stress on the body, and has been linked to increased risks of weight gain, depression and heart disease.

Catching up on Social Jetlag

If you suffer from social jetlag, the clock change offers a great opportunity to close the gap in your schedule between weekdays and weekends, without losing sleep overall.

If you usually wake up at 7am during the week, but 10am at weekends, why not set your alarm a little earlier this Sunday? If you wake up at 8:30am, your body clocks will then only have one hour to transition on Monday morning, which is a manageable change. To help you wake up and get going on Sunday morning:

  • On Saturday night, dim the lights an hour before bed, and aim to wind down in time to get at least 7 hours sleep
  • Leave an alarm clock out of reach of your bed, so that you have to physically get out of bed to switch it off
  • Throw open the curtains (it will be light by 8:30am on Sunday!); daylight sends a strong alerting signal to the body clock
  • Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up, this will also signal your master clock that the day has started.

Aim to get ready for bed at your usual time on Sunday night. You may feel a little less tired than normal if your body clock is still on your old routine. If so, dim the lights, read a book, have a soak in a warm bath or listen to calming music until you start to feel sleepy… and at that point, it’s time for bed.

Tips for your clock change:

  1. IF you’re a stickler for routine, on Friday and Saturday night, eat dinner and go to bed 30 minutes later, and get out of bed 30 minutes later on Saturday morning. On Sunday, get out of bed at your usual time.
  2. IF you usually have a lengthy lie in on Sunday, reduce the gap between your weekend and Monday wake up time by getting out of bed at least an hour earlier on Sunday. Your reward will be feeling fresher on Monday morning.
  3. On Sunday night, your body clock may not quite be ready to sleep at the usual time. Make an extra effort to protect your last hour of the day to wind down: switch off technology, read a book, connect with loved ones, or soak in the bath to help you relax, and feel naturally sleepy.
  4. As winter looms, daylight hours become increasingly precious! Get all of the natural light you can by taking walks outside, and/or spending time by a window during the day. Sunlight helps to boost serotonin and vitamin D which can help to protect our mood in the winter.
  5. Go easy on the heating. The temptation when it’s dark outside is to crank up the heating, but keep an eye on the thermostat. Your bedroom ideally wants to be a little cooler than usual room temperature - around 18C. The body cooling at night is a prompt for sleep.