The clocks going back
The end of October heralds the arrival of two events in the autumnal calendar. There’s Halloween, when we get to dress up and act silly for one night, and the clocks go back as British Summer Time ends and we get an extra glorious hour in bed.
But which one is the trick and which is the treat?
Like most people, the first thing I think when I’m reminded to put my clock back before I go to bed on Saturday is yippee – an extra hour to lie-in tomorrow! But is it really something to cheer about? And will the clocks going back affect my sleep?
We all know the saying “spring forward, fall back” and compared to spring when we lose an hour, this weekend is actually more like a treat. True, it tricks the body a little in the sense that our internal biological clock will need to re-sync itself to adjust to the one hour change, which can sometimes affect the quality of our sleep and can take a few days to work itself out.
However, in the long run, in a society where we are constantly told we need to get more sleep and that the average amount of sleep people in Britain are getting is in decline (the average is 6.5 hours a night), that extra hour in bed could be a blessing most of us need. It’s not as disruptive to our bodies as the loss of an hour and with the darker nights we also are more inclined to go to bed earlier, which may promote better and longer sleep.
Why do we need this extra hour?
What a difference an hour makes! There are so many different factors disrupting our sleep these days, from stress to increasingly busy lifestyles, that why a good night’s sleep is now considered to be a luxury! However, when the clocks go back it offers some people a rare chance to slip an extra hour in which may have some potential benefits for their health.
New research is recognising the benefits of an extra hour of sleep, with studies finding that just an extra hour each night could bring about some serious improvements. It’s no secret that sleep deprivation can have some ramifications for your health – in fact, this particular piece of research actually identifies that a lack of sleep can affect around 500 genes, actually increasing the activity of those associated with stress responses and inflammation.
Getting an extra hour each night was found to reduce the activity of the genes, which can be enormously beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing, plus it reduces that pesky grogginess that often haunts you the day after a night of poor sleep!
Naturally, this is very exciting news but unfortunately, it’s dubious as to whether or not the clocks going back truly makes that much of an impact. After all, in order to really feel the benefits of an extra hour in bed, it needs to be consistent. One night, as great as that extra hour may feel, is unlikely to change things in the long-run which means that you do need to look at more sustainable ways to improve your sleep pattern in order to snatch that extra hour!
You may also need to consider that, while most of us laze in bed, sometimes this change to our usual sleep routine can be quite disruptive, more of a trick than a treat!
Do we lose sleep when the clocks go back?
I mentioned earlier that, when the clocks go forward, it can be quite intrusive for our sleep patterns but that this effect was not as pronounced when the clocks go back. This is still true but if you, like many others, struggle to unwind at night then this extra hour may actually be more disruptive to your body.
If you’re an anxious sleeper for example, this treat could simply be spent as an extra hour tossing and turning in bed. It’s also possible that if you’re used to keeping a regular sleep routine, instead of spending that extra hour in bed you might find yourself simply getting up an hour earlier which may upset your circadian rhythm for a few days until it adjusts.
Fortunately, there are various tricks you could try to promote a better sleep, such as a hot bath before bed, changing your bed linen or taking a relaxing cup of chamomile tea. Take a look at our page on sleep hygiene tips to help you get a better night’s sleep. If you do find that stress is a factor when it comes to your sleep pattern, you might want to consider a gentle herbal remedy such as Dormeasan.
Dormeasan, unlike many other sleep medicines, won’t leave you feeling groggy and out of sorts the next day. Instead, this combination of Valerian and Hops can be very calming for your nervous system, easing any strained or tense emotions, making it easier for you to unwind just before you go to bed.
So, this Sunday morning I know I will be snuggled up snoozing for one blissful extra hour but let me know how you will be spending your hour!
Originally published 24 October 2013 (updated on 5 October 2018)