Daylight saving time: Why are the clocks changed twice a year?
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When the clocks go forward an hour for daylight saving time every spring, many of us welcome the lighter and longer evenings it brings. But the change, due in the early hours of tomorrow morning, can disrupt our body’s internal clock – and our sleep. This can have a lasting and serious impact on our health in more ways than one, experts have warned.
Doctor Sue Peacock, a consultant health psychologist at Well aHead who specialises in sleep disorders, spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk to explain more.
Sharing her tips and advice as part of a partnership with Opera Beds, she said: “Changing the clocks to British Summer Time can sometimes cause a temporary disruption to our sleep pattern as our bodies adjust to the new schedule.
“This can be exacerbated for those who are sensitive to changes in their sleep schedules or who have existing sleep disorders.
“For some it can take a few days for their melatonin [a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness] levels to adjust to the new light and dark cycle.
“Apart from sleep, the circadian rhythm works with other biological timers in our bodies.
“For example, if we’re expecting a meal, our digestive system uses cues from our circadian rhythms to create proteins which enable us to draw nutrients out of our food.
“Over the course of 24-hours, our endocrine system uses the circadian rhythm to anticipate when we need to eat, fast or do activity, so it can secrete hormones such as cortisol, to give us energy to perform important tasks.”
She warned of more serious consequences as a result of the change.
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“Sleep experts have noticed troubling trends when moving the clocks forward an hour, such as an increase in heart problems, mood disorders and road traffic accidents,” Dr Peacock said.
“It can also cause more sleep problems if our circadian rhythms aren’t in alignment with the natural light and dark cycle.
“Moving the clocks forward means our mornings are darker and we have more light in the early evening.
“This will often delay our sleep-wake cycle, so we are tired in the morning and more alert in the evening, which can contribute to sleep loss. One study found the average person gets 40 minutes less sleep.”
She added: “There has been some research linking the clocks going forward with miscarriages for IVF patients.”
Dr Peacock shared tips on how to avoid sleep disruption after the clocks change.
“Keep a consistent sleep routine, even at weekends, to regulate your body’s internal clock and improve sleep quality,” she said.
“Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool for a sleep conducive environment – you might want to consider blackout curtains or earplugs to reduce distractions to sleep.
“Practise good sleep hygiene by avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed and engage in relaxation practices to calm your body and mind before sleep.
“Spend time outdoors during the day as exposure to sunlight can reduce feelings of tiredness associated with the clocks changing.
“Avoid exposure to blue light emitted by phones, tablets and laptops to promote good sleep.”
The clocks will move forward an hour at 1am on Sunday, March 26.
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