Do we get an extra hour of sleep in November?
Autumn is officially here. And on Sunday 29th October in the UK and Europe, and Sunday 5th November in the US, daylight saving time (DST) ends, meaning the clocks go back by an hour. And while we may be blessed with a whole extra 60 minutes in bed, many people find the change in time plays havoc with their mood, health and crucially, sleep. But why is this? And what can we do to mitigate any effects from the clocks changing? We take a look…
First off, tell me, why do the clocks even go back and forward?
The idea is to align waking hours to daylight hours (which shorten during the winter months as the sun moves towards the Southern horizon). It was first proposed by the American polymath Benjamin Franklin in 1784, who suggested that waking up earlier in the summer would save on candle use and, therefore, money. Over the years, it’s generally been accepted that we do our daily ‘clock-based’ activities like schooling and work according to the time it’s light. So typically, clocks go forward by an hour in late spring (‘spring forward’) and back by one hour in the autumn, (‘fall back’).
Do all countries have Daylight Saving then?
Nope. In the Northern hemisphere, it’s observed in the UK, most of Europe and North America and parts of Africa and Asia, and in the Southern hemisphere, parts of South America and Oceania. Interestingly, in the US, not everyone agrees on daylight saving with states like Arizona not observing DST, with the exception of the Navajo Nation Reservation which does! And in countries near the equator, or places of high latitude like parts of Scandinavia, they don’t change the clocks because the sunrise and sunset times don’t vary enough to justify it.
How daylight savings affects sleep
I always look forward to a lie-in at this time of year, but why do I feel so tired and groggy?
Naturally, we use sunlight as an indicator to wake up, and darkness as a sign to go to sleep. So moving clocks in either direction causes our internal body clock – also known as our circadian rhythm – to get out of sync. It’s down in part to our body’s production of melatonin. That’s the hormone which helps to induce sleep – and it relies heavily on light. When the clocks go back and there is less daylight overall, it can disrupt the usual cycle of melatonin production.
So will the clocks going back disrupt my sleeping pattern?
How the time change affects you personally depends on your own health, sleep habits and lifestyle. Early birds, in particular, are thought to feel the effects of the autumnal clock change and may experience more evening tiredness. But easing your body into the time shift a few days before can help. Try going to bed 20 minutes later incrementally for two or three days before the change, so that when the new time sets in at 2am on Sunday, your body clock is already in tune.
That makes sense. What can I do to prepare for daylight saving time?
With the shorter days, it’s important to make the most of morning light. Throughout autumn and the winter try to maximise the amount of daylight you get to boost serotonin levels and regulate mood. Exposure to early morning sunlight can especially help, so pull open the curtains as soon as you wake and aim to get outside in the earlier part of your day.
Is there anything else I can do to wake up feeling more refreshed?
Yes, another way to improve your wake-up experience is to use a motion-sensing alarm like Sleepwave. Instead of sounding at a fixed time and jolting you out of sleep, you set a 15-minute window. Sleepwave’s innovative technology detects your movements and alertness and gently sounds when you are primed to wake more easily. This gives you a much better start to your day and helps you make the most of precious morning light.
Sounds great. It hasn’t got an ear-splitting alarm though, has it?
Absolutely not. Gone are those shrill sounds that come with your phone or traditional alarm clocks. Sleepwave has a library of tranquil sounds inspired by life and nature to wake you gently – from distant Sunday morning church bells to the dawn chorus of birds, lapping waves and faraway rolling thunder – all designed to bring you to a gradual awakening and, in turn, help reduce feelings of tiredness.
To help ease you into the clock change, use Sleepwave’s free motion-sensing smart alarm.