What is Daylight Saving Time?
DST became wide spread during the onset of WWI as a conservation effort (not for farmers as the common myth suggests). Moving the clocks in order to gain extra daylight at night would mean a reduction in lighting demand and allow for the saving of coal for the war effort.
So why is this relevant today? Well really, it’s not. Many countries across the globe don’t observe DST and in recent years there has been debate as to whether the age-old tradition should continue in the UK. For many experts the negatives of DST, in terms of energy usage and sleep problems, far outweigh the positives.
So does losing an hour of sleep really have a significant effect?
Yes. Losing an hour of sleep can have a significant knock-on effect for your sleep cycle, essentially throwing it off balance. The disruption to our circadian rhythm can cause weeks of disturbed sleep and loss of the health benefits commonly attributed to quality sleep.
The side effects of losing an hour of sleep can range from decreased productivity and levels of performance to lapses in concentration. Recent research has even revealed that the risk of having a heart attack increases by 10% in the 48 hours following the clocks moving forward!
Tips for managing this loss of sleep
Prepare before the change:
A good rule to follow before the 29th is the fifteen-minute rule. For the week leading up to the clocks jumping forward try and move your bed time to fifteen minutes earlier than usual. This will make sure that you’re not sleep deprived before the clocks change and allows you to bank these extra fifteen minutes, making up for the loss of an hour at the end of the week.
The disruption of your sleep cycle is compounded by changes in your exposure to light; there is less light in the morning when you should be waking up and more light at night when you should be going to sleep. Light is important for your sleep cycle because exposure to light supresses the secretion of melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone.
In order to counter these negative effects of changing light you should try controlling your light exposure as much as possible. You can do this by making sure you expose yourself to daylight as early. Try drinking your morning mug of tea by the window or eating breakfast in the conservatory, too. You should also make sure the lights are dimmed as you approach bedtime; make use of your curtains and blinds and limit your exposure to artificial light from your TV or phone!
Practice good sleep hygiene at night
This means making sure your bedtime routine and conditions during sleep are at their optimum both before and after losing your hour. Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol close to the time you go to bed and refrain from exercising too close to bedtime, this will help your body prepare for lights out.
Having a good winding down routine can also help promote sleep. Try a warm bath as a way of relaxing or drinking warm milk. This increases your body temperature, promoting feelings of drowsiness (make sure your drink isn’t caffeinated!).
Don’t be afraid to nap!
If you’re feeling fatigued and tired during the days after the clocks change, you may benefit from a power nap in the daytime to boost your energy levels. This will help in stocking up on the sleep you’ve lost.
Daylight Savings is observed in the UK on the last Sunday in March. In 2015 this falls on the 29th of March.