Spring forward, fall back… you’re probably thinking: ‘I’m glad we get an extra hours sleep this time’. Also known as daylight saving hours, putting the clocks back on the last Sunday of October provides us with more sunlight in the mornings for the winter months. This year the hour will be going back on Sunday 27th October, finishing at 2am.
However whether the time’s springing forward or falling back, this process affects how our bodies function. It mainly irregulates our circadian rhythm, often referred to as the ‘body clock’ that are controlled by the part of our brain called the hypothalamus. At certain times throughout our body clocks, the hypothalamus releases hormones that make us feel certain ways: hungry, tired, hot, cold, thirsty and of course, tired. So when the clocks go back at the end of October, we’re forcing our circadian rhythms to adjust our usual patterns. When the hour goes forward, it’s much more disruptive than falling back by comparison. This is because our circadian rhythm cycle functions for just over 24 hours at a time, which it’s much easier to extend than shorten. Extending our circadian cycle is as easy as going to bed a bit later than you usually would; shortening it would entail going to bed earlier. For most people, that’s significantly harder to do! That’s why most of us breathe a sigh of relief when we remember that we get an extra hour’s sleep this time around when our head hits the pillow. With the hopeful thought of feeling more refreshed on Monday than usual, you may be pleased to hear that you could feel this way throughout the winter anyway.
Our hypothalamus is intrinsically linked to environmental factors that we experience. If it’s starting to get darker outside at an earlier time, then your hypothalamus will release hormones like melatonin to make your body feel tired. This means that we should be feeling more tired at an earlier time, potentially helping us get to bed earlier. With this, hopefully feeling a little more alive in the morning too!
For October, it’s said that it should only take about a day to adjust to the hour going back. The story is a bit different for spring forward; adjusting to losing an hour’s sleep could take as long as a week. However, we’re going to give you some quick tips so you can sync up your circadian rhythm again this winter…
- You should make your room as bright as possible (despite how hard it will be), when you wake up. This causes your hypothalamus to stop producing melatonin, so you’re essentially telling your brain to wake up and get ready for the day!
- Don’t exercise before bed. It won’t tire you out, it will simply increase your heart rate, adrenaline and hormone levels, making you feel more awake and preventing you from going to sleep when your circadian rhythm is used to.
- Drinking caffeine can affect you for several hours post-consumption, so it should probably go without saying that you should avoid caffeine in the evening if you want to adjust better. As for alcohol, you may not be as well informed. Alcohol can cause you to fall asleep much quicker, but worsens your quality of sleep significantly. You can wake up unrefreshed from poor quality sleep, stopping you from adjusting easily.
- Maybe self-explanatory, but eating breakfast in the wake of daylight saving hours can help kick start those energy levels properly. The same notion goes for before bed, don’t overly hungry or after a big meal, it could stop you from falling asleep.
So there are our tips to help you adjust to daylight saving and to get the best night’s sleep you possibly can throughout it… At least this time we get that extra crucial hour though, right! Let us know in the comments what you think of our tips, or if you have any tips that you swear by… we want to know!