As the UK prepares for the clocks to go back one hour on Sunday 31st October, sleep expert April Mayer from Amerisleep reveals how to adjust your body and routine to cope with the change in sleeping patterns.
What happens to our bodies when the clock changes, and we miss an hour of sleep?
While it may not sound like much, losing an hour’s sleep is often unpleasant. If you don’t take steps to minimize the effect, it can take a few days or even around a week to get your sleep schedule back on track. Mild sleep deprivation is also linked to greater caloric consumption, decreased job performance, depression, and more, which is why it’s always important to protect your sleep routine ahead of any changes.
Our circadian rhythms are governed by sunlight and other environmental cues, which means you will feel the effects and the lost sleep if you wake up an hour earlier without any preparation. However, knowing this means that you can take steps to smooth the transition and avoid any negative effects.
What should people do before the night of an anticipated clock change, to minimize disruption to sleep?
To fully prepare their bodies for the change, we recommend sleepers start taking steps to move their bedtime back an hour. Instead of doing it all at once, we suggest doing so by about 15 to 20 minutes at a time and waiting a couple of days before shifting bedtime back even more.
We also recommend moving dinnertime back as well a little bit, to keep you from feeling full when it’s time for bed. The night before the expected clock change, we advise eating a light, protein-filled dinner to promote sleepiness. We also recommend maximizing your relaxation by shutting off all your screens about two hours before bedtime. Unwind with a warm bath or shower, some light stretches, and a good book or another light activity like colouring or knitting.
It’s also important to make sure you’re getting a full night’s rest and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule before the change. Getting at least seven hours of sleep a night can keep you from feeling tired when the switch occurs.
Do you have any tips for parents on how to prepare their children for the clock change, and resulting change in routine?
Parents can prepare their children for the clock change by adjusting their bedtime a couple of weeks before the switch. When it’s almost time to move the clock back an hour, we suggest rolling back a child’s bedtime by about 15 minutes, putting them to bed at the new time for a couple of days, then continuing the cycle by adjusting bedtime 15 more minutes.
Parents can also try to wear out their children the day of the change with numerous outdoor activities, ensuring the kids are tired enough to go to bed with minimal fuss. As a bonus, parents may also find it easier to fall asleep the night of the clock change.