Coping with the effects of “Spring Forward” and “Fall Back”
Every year, billions of us around the world observe the ritual of winding our clocks back in Autumn and forward in Spring.
In the UK, we observe Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in the winter months, and advance an hour during British Summer Time (BST). From time to time Parliament has debated the idea of adopting BST throughout the year, but a permanent change is yet to happen.
History of the clock change
The idea of summer time or daylight saving time was mentioned in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin. However, it wasn’t until 1907 that a serious proposal for daylight saving time was made in Britain by William Willett. Angry at the waste of daylight during summer mornings, he self-published a pamphlet called “The Waste of Daylight”.
In 1916, a year after Willett’s death, Germany was the first country to adopt daylight saving time. The UK did the same a few weeks later, along with many other nations involved in World War One.
Within a few years of its introduction, many countries across the world adopted Daylight Saving Time. However, the benefits of it have been an ongoing debate since it was first proposed. Some think having BST is a good thing because it saves energy by making better use of natural daylight, and helps to reduce traffic accidents. Others don’t like it because they argue it doesn’t actually save any energy and it can make it darker when people are travelling to work or school in the morning, which can be dangerous for children.
When does it happen?
“Spring forward” an hour usually happens on the last Sunday in March at 2 am, whilst “Fall back” an hour is the last Sunday in October. For many, gaining a little extra sunlight when we go back an hour is a welcome change after a long, dark winter. But many suffer when the clocks shift forward an hour. We lose an hour sleep and the mornings become darker.
An extra hour of evening sunlight in winter could save on electricity bills, as households would require less energy to heat and light their homes. However, losing that hour of sleep can have surprisingly serious health consequences. “This comes down to two things: number one, stress, and number two, sleep deprivation,” said CBS News medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips. “When we are sleep deprived or stressed, there are more inflammatory markers in our bloodstream, and that inflammation raises our risk of heart attacks.”
Even though a one-hour time change doesn’t sound like much, it can be a big adjustment for the body’s circadian rhythm. Moving the clock forward and backward might not seem like a big deal, but it changes your sleep cycle and disrupts the opportunity to get restful sleep.
A good night’s sleep helps to form new pathways in the brain so we can retain more information. It’s essential for physical repair and healing and it makes us feel more productive. There is no greater feeling than waking up refreshed, arms stretched, ready for a new day.
Top tips to help combat the clock change
Exercise caution on the roads. Sleep deprivation due to the time change may lead to an increase in road accidents. It will also be darker in the mornings, to begin with when the clocks move forward.
Do take it easy over the weekend. Try to go to bed a little earlier so that you can get extra sleep on Friday and Saturday to make up for the hour you’re losing in the winter.
Do make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. It should be dark, quiet and cool. Lower the room temperature and invest in blackout curtains to block the increasing daylight.
Do drink plenty of liquids, making sure to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon and evening. Say no to the afternoon or after dinner cup of coffee. The caffeine is likely to keep you awake, causing you to lose even more precious sleep.
Don’t have a huge meal late at night and go to bed. You’ll be going to bed and trying to sleep on a full stomach, which isn’t pleasant.
Don’t tackle any complicated tasks an hour before bed, and keep your bedroom a refuge. Don’t watch TV or do challenging crossword puzzles before bed.
Do have a bedtime ritual. Begin to unwind an hour before bed with a warm bath, download our E-Book for more tips.
Try to avoid screens after your evening meal. The blue light from electronic screens, smartphones and televisions can reduce the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that tells the brain it’s time for bed.
Start with a protein-heavy breakfast, as sleep deprivation can increase appetite and craving for high-carbohydrate foods and sugars.
Do get up at the same time on your regular schedule, regardless of the sunrise.
Do get physical. Exercise is a good thing, with morning exercise to get outside and get some sun exposure the best. Try a 30-minute daily walk to start off with and gradually increase the pace or length over a few weeks.
Most digital devices will automatically update but it’s important to prepare if you use any devices that aren’t connected to the internet or use a traditional alarm clock to wake up in the morning. We find it easier to change them just before we go to bed, so we don’t forget!