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Spring forward - will the clocks changing mess with my sleep?

We’re nearing the weekend when the clocks change, and while we gained an hour back in October, it’s time to lose one. Even the mere thought of that can cause a bit of anxiety about our sleep for many of us, and (if we have them) our children. So keep reading to find out what you can do to support your and your family's sleep as we approach the end of the week, and Daylight Savings Time (DST).

In Spring we put the clocks forward an hour, moving us onto British Summer Time (BST). While this shift allows us to revel in lighter evenings throughout the summer, it also means we lose an hour of sleep. And when we don’t sleep well, or know how much we can struggle when we’re tired, many of us get a bit stressed about our sleep at this time of year.

On the bright side (quite literally) we get a bit of daylight back at the start of the day, so the commute to work or the school run starts in daylight again, and that is really helpful for getting us out of bed even if we’re tired.

Exposure to daylight when we wake up naturally helps raise our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) just enough to help us feel awake and ready for the day ahead. So the commute to work and the school run doesn’t start in the dark, and the sun might even be out too.

We also have those lovely long evenings that boost our mood, create the feeling of having more hours in a day to get things done, and we’re drawn back to fresh air and nature. We feel more energised, and for those who experience seasonal depression or the winter blues (a milder version) start to feel some relief from their symptoms.

But the question on all your minds must be, despite the joys of BST, what can we do to manage losing that hour of sleep as the clocks spring forward?

There’s always contradicting advice about sleep around clocks changing. So we’re going to keep it simple and straightforward for you:

Try not to worry about it too much...

When the clocks change, we tend to fire up into a frenzy about whether our sleep will be ok. Will we feel refreshed in the morning? Will the kids struggle and then be grumpy little gremlins for the rest of the day? And will we be bigger, grumpier gremlins back?

If you’re familiar with our Sleepingwell approach, you’ll know the premise of almost all our advice is to take the stress out of your sleep. Stressing about the clocks changing only adds to our already full heads, piles pressure on us, and is a guaranteed way to make our sleep worse.

While it’s not the most profound thing you’ve likely heard, it’s important to not worry about the clocks changing. If the kids are grumpy, it’s ok - they’re tired. If you’re grumpy - it’s ok, you’re tired.

To ensure you and your kids don’t find the clock changes too impactful, you could gently adjust your sleep schedules. Many experts recommend trying to go to sleep 15 minutes earlier each night of the week leading up to the day of the change. But don’t panic if you haven’t already started this…

Firstly, we cannot force ourselves to sleep. So trying to adjust our sleep schedules by falling asleep earlier won’t necessarily work and it’ll likely add more stress to your pre-sleep routine.

If you’re keen to make adjustments, try changing your wake-up time as that is something we can force ourselves to do (and many of us sleepy-heads are well-practised). Wake up a little earlier tomorrow and the next day and after that, and get the kids up with you, to give you all a chance to adjust to the hour-less kip over the weekend.

Secondly, we don’t need to do this. If you’re not too worried, or bothered about trying to make adjustments or you find it’s simply not working, you will still be ok when the clocks change. And here’s why:

We don’t tend to wake up at the exact same time every day of the week, usually. We might get out of bed at roughly the same time if we’re getting up for work, school, or the school run, but we don’t often actually wake up on the dot of our alarm going off every single day.

Most of us vary our wake-up times by at least an hour in the week and so that ‘lost hour’ as the clock's change is not detrimental to our sleep, or our wellbeing. At the most, it may take a couple of mornings to adjust.

If we focus on the brighter mornings and evenings we get in return it might feel less daunting or downright dreadful. We might be stifling more yawns through the morning meetings or need a stronger coffee to start the day, but generally, we’ll be fine and the best part is nothing helps tonight’s sleep like a bad one last night.




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