Home Health & Wellness Sleep Expert Shares Exact Routine to Follow When the Clocks Change

Sleep Expert Shares Exact Routine to Follow When the Clocks Change

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As we approach the annual ritual of advancing our clocks by one hour for Daylight Saving Time (DST) on Sunday 31st March 2024, it’s essential to understand its profound impact on our sleep and overall well-being. In the UK, this seemingly minor time adjustment carries significant implications for our health, particularly at a time when a third of the population already struggles with getting the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep each night.

Dave Gibson, a renowned sleep expert in conversation with Vitabiotics, sheds light on why losing just one hour of sleep can have a substantial effect on our physical and mental health.

The significant impact of losing an hour’s sleep

“Losing an hour of sleep due to the clocks springing forward not only disrupts our daily routine but also poses significant risks to our cardiovascular health,” Gibson explains. A 2022 YouGov study highlighted that many already fall short of the recommended sleep duration, making the loss of another hour particularly concerning.

Research has shown that the transition into DST can lead to a 24% increase in heart attacks on the following Monday. Conversely, when we gain an hour of sleep in autumn, a decrease in heart attacks is noted. Gibson stresses the importance of understanding these risks, especially for those already suffering from sleep deprivation.

The effects on mood and cognitive function

The immediate aftermath of DST is often marked by increased irritability, moodiness, and stress. “The lost hour disrupts our total sleep pattern, making it more difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times,” says Gibson. This disruption primarily affects REM or “dream” sleep, crucial for emotional processing and memory consolidation.

“Our body clock controls every aspect of our emotional, cognitive, and physiological health. Things go wrong when the system is forced to work an hour earlier than usual,” Gibson adds, emphasising the impact on our circadian rhythm. This internal biological clock thrives on regularity, and its disruption can lead to noticeable declines in our cognitive abilities, mood, and concentration.

Vulnerable groups and individual differences

Gibson notes that certain groups, like night owls, older adults, and shift workers, might feel the effects of DST more intensely. Individuals with a natural inclination towards later sleep times (night owls) or those with irregular sleep patterns (shift workers) may find it particularly challenging to adjust. Furthermore, factors such as age, existing sleep disorders, and lifestyle choices contribute to varying degrees of vulnerability.

Children and infants: special considerations

Young children and infants, who require more sleep for healthy brain development, are also significantly affected. “Children are often more sensitive to changes in their daily routines, including their sleep,” Gibson remarks. He advises parents to maintain a consistent sleep routine and gradually adjust bedtime and wake times to help their little ones adapt.

Practical tips for adjusting to DST

Gibson recommends a structured approach to help the body adjust to the new time. For babies and toddlers, he suggests shifting bedtimes, naptimes, and wake times forward by 10 minutes daily, starting six days before the change. For older children and adults, a 15-minute increment approach starting on Wednesday before DST is advised.

Moreover, synchronising meal times with the new sleep schedule can also help in adjusting the body clock. Exposure to natural light in the mornings and increased physical activity can also aid in this transition.

The sleep-inducing hack you need to try

For those struggling to fall asleep, Gibson recommends progressive muscle relaxation. This technique involves contracting and relaxing muscles sequentially, from the toes to the head, aiding muscle relaxation and tension release. “Always breathe out longer than you breathe in, as this slows the heart rate, which further helps with relaxation,” he advises.

Takeaway

As we prepare to ‘spring forward’, it’s crucial to acknowledge and mitigate the potential health risks associated with this annual time change. By understanding the underlying factors that contribute to the disruption caused by DST and employing Gibson’s expert advice, we can better manage our sleep patterns and maintain our health and well-being during this transitional period.

This awareness and proactive approach will not only help in reducing the risks associated with sleep deprivation but also ensure a smoother adjustment to the new time, benefiting our overall health and quality of life.

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