Every year, as autumn descends, the subtle dance of time undergoes a shift, and clocks, both analogue and digital, make their biannual adjustment. This phenomenon is part of the practice known as Daylight Saving Time (DST), where clocks are set forward in the spring and set back in the fall. As the days grow shorter and darkness encroaches earlier, offering an extra hour of coveted time, the delicate balance of our internal clocks — circadian rhythms — faces a subtle yet impactful disturbance. Here are twenty essential things you might need to know about the clocks going back, how it can influence our sleep patterns, and what steps can be taken to ensure a restful transition.
1. The Dance of Time
Daylight Saving Time is a well-established practice that originated in the early 20th century. The main idea behind it is to maximise the utilisation of daylight during the longer days of spring and summer. In the UK, we first started practising this daylight saving technique in 1916 ( 1).
2. Fall Back, Spring Forward
The clocks "fall back" in the fall, usually between late October and early November. This transition signifies the conclusion of DST and allows for an extra hour of sleep on the designated day.
3. Energy Conservation
One of the primary reasons for implementing DST is to conserve energy. By aligning waking hours with natural daylight, the need for artificial lighting in the evenings is reduced, theoretically leading to energy savings.
4. Global Variation
While many countries around the world observe DST, it's essential to note that not every nation participates. Countries in Asia, Africa, and some others do not adjust their clocks for DST.
5. Regional Variances
Even within countries that observe DST, there can be regional variations. Some regions may choose not to participate, leading to differences in timekeeping within the same country. Australia is a good example of a divide in observation of Daylight savings. While the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria all still utilise DST, Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia have abolished the practice of turning their clocks back ( 2).
6. Automatic Adjustments
In our technologically advanced age, most electronic devices, including smartphones, computers, and smartwatches, automatically adjust to the time change. However, it's prudent to ensure that your devices are set to the correct time zone.
7. Impact on Sleep Patterns
The shift in time can have a profound impact on sleep patterns ( 3). For some individuals, adjusting to the new schedule might result in disruptions to their circadian rhythm. Gradual adjustments to bedtime are recommended to ease the transition.
8. Safety Considerations
With the earlier onset of darkness, safety becomes a crucial concern. Both drivers and pedestrians should exercise extra caution during the period following the time change to mitigate the risks associated with reduced visibility.
9. Time-Sensitive Commitments
Whether it's a crucial meeting or a flight to catch, being aware of the impending time change is vital. Checking and adjusting schedules ensures that important commitments are not missed or disrupted.
10. Seizing the Extra Hour
As the clocks go back, individuals gain a precious extra hour. Instead of letting it slip away unnoticed, consider utilising this bonus time for rest, relaxation, or engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfilment.
11. Circadian Rhythm Disruption
The circadian rhythm, our internal biological clock, governs our sleep-wake cycles. When the clocks shift, it can lead to a temporary misalignment between our internal clock and the external day-night cycle, potentially disrupting our sleep patterns.
12. Gradual Adjustments
The abrupt change in time can be jarring for some individuals, leading to difficulties in falling asleep or waking up. To counteract this, consider making gradual adjustments to your bedtime in the days leading up to the time change, allowing your body to acclimate naturally.
13. Light Exposure
Light is a powerful regulator of our circadian rhythm. Increase exposure to natural light during the day, especially in the morning, to signal to your body that it's time to wake up. Conversely, dim the lights in the evening to facilitate the winding down process before bedtime.
14. Consistent Sleep Schedule
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial, even during the transition period. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends. This consistency reinforces your body's internal clock.
15. Mindful Technology Use
The screens of electronic devices emit blue light, which can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Consider limiting screen time, especially close to bedtime, to promote better sleep quality ( 4).
16. Relaxation Techniques
The stress of adjusting to a new sleep schedule can hinder relaxation. Engage in calming activities before bedtime, such as reading a book, practicing deep breathing, or gentle stretching, to help signal to your body that it's time to wind down.
17. Evaluate Sleep Environment
Take a look at your sleep environment. Ensure that your bedroom is conducive to sleep — cool, dark, and quiet. Evaluate your mattress and pillows to make sure they provide the necessary comfort and support for a good night's sleep.
18. Caffeine and Alcohol Awareness
Both caffeine and alcohol can impact sleep. Be mindful of your intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. Consider opting for caffeine-free beverages and limiting alcohol consumption to promote better sleep.
19. Seeking Professional Guidance
If sleep difficulties persist despite efforts to adjust, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist may be beneficial. They can provide personalised advice and explore potential underlying issues affecting sleep.
20. Hydration and Nutrition
Often overlooked, hydration and nutrition play pivotal roles in sleep quality. Stay mindful of your water intake throughout the day, but be cautious about excessive consumption close to bedtime to avoid disruptions due to bathroom visits. Additionally, consider choosing sleep-supportive snacks, such as those rich in magnesium (like nuts and seeds), which can promote relaxation and contribute to a more restful night's sleep.
In conclusion, the changing of the clocks is not merely a technical adjustment but a transition that can impact various aspects of our lives. Awareness of the implications on sleep, safety, and daily routines allows for a smoother adaptation to the changing seasons. By approaching this transition with mindfulness, gradual adjustments, and a focus on sleep hygiene, one can gracefully navigate the shifting sands of time and embrace restful nights even as the clocks turn back.
Sleep better with a Bensons bedroom
Our collection of bedroom furniture, beds, pillows, and duvets offer something for every sleep preferences. Helping you to choose your bed, your way®, here at Bensons for Beds we have the knowledge, the expertise, and the latest sleeppro technology to make getting that all important great night’s sleep a whole lot easier.
For more help creating your dream bedroom visit your nearest showroom or call us on 0808 144 6160.
- British Summer Time - Historic UK (historic-uk.com)
- Daylight Saving Time - How Time Change Affects Sleep | Sleep Foundation
- Blue Light: What It Is and How It Affects Sleep | Sleep Foundation