It will soon be time to put our clocks forward for British Summer Time – yay! Every spring we move the clocks forward by an hour on the last Saturday night/Sunday morning in March, and this year it’s on 25 March 2018.
Changing the clocks forward by an hour can mess around with our body clock. We’re already beginning to naturally adjust to the lighter mornings and evenings, and then suddenly we’re plunged back into dark mornings again, as everything has shifted by an hour. Our internal sleeping mechanism – the circadian rhythm is synchronised with light, it doesn’t change just because we decide to change our clocks; it in fact goes against thousands of years of human evolution.
However, for some of us it can take up to a couple of weeks to adjust after losing that hour. So if you feel a bit out of sorts after losing the hour after the clocks go forward, you are experiencing a lag in your body clock.
How our body clock works
Our circadian rhythm is the daily rhythm by which we live; a sleep cycle and a wake cycle related to the cycle of the sun. We become sleepy as the dark evening hours approach and wake up as the day begins and everything is governed by the body’s biological clock deep within the brain. However, our body clock is also responsible for the operation of other body functions like hunger, mental alertness, mood, stress, heart function and our immune system.
The body works on a 24 hour cycle and the input of daylight resets the brain every day, and when we shorten this cycle to 23 hours, it affects us in a similar way to jet lag. That is, our body clock tells us it’s one time and the outside environment tells us it’s another. Losing this hour can be more difficult for us to adjust to than gaining an hour in the autumn.
However, sleep deprived people getting by on 6 hours sleep or less, shifting their already frazzled body clock by another lost hour can often cause problems. Even though the evenings will become lighter, sunrise will be an hour later, which is equivalent to sunrise approximately four weeks earlier, which means you will be getting up in the dark again, confusing your internal body clock.
On Monday 26 March there will be quite a few really groggy people out there going off to work with decreased concentration, fatigue and general daytime sleepiness. Apparently road traffic accidents increase by 10% a couple of days after the clocks go forward, so be careful when you’re driving!
To overcome the spring forward jet lag, here are a few tips to help you:
- Try going to bed 10 minutes earlier each night in the week running up to the clock change so that your internal body clock can slowly adjust to the one hour change.
- Or one to two nights before the clocks go forward go to bed an hour earlier, which will be your new bed time.
- Change all your clocks to the new time before you go to bed.
- Try to get up at your new week day time on the the Sunday so that it isn’t so much of a shock on Monday morning. If you’re feeling tired have a quick nap of no longer than 30 minutes between 1pm to 3pm.
- As the evenings start to get lighter, make sure you keep your bedroom dark, as it will be more difficult to get to sleep in a lighter room.
Who would have thought losing one hour would be so disruptive!
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