Woman asleep with clock on a nightstand

How do daylight saving hours affect your sleep?

You’ve probably heard people talking about ‘springing forward’ in March and ‘falling back’ in October. They’re referring to the time of year when we change the clocks, gaining or losing an hour of our day.

Far from being as straightforward as changing all the clocks in your house, losing an hour of sleep can be detrimental to your health. In this blog, we look at how switching to daylight saving hours affects your sleep and how to prepare for the change.

How do daylight savings work? 

Daylight savings is the practice of changing the clocks to account for longer days in summer and shorter days in winter. In the areas that observe DST (daylight savings time), the clocks go forward by one hour in the Spring and back an hour in the Autumn.

As the Earth travels around the sun over the course of a year, the amount of natural daylight we get in a day changes. In the Northern Hemisphere, we are tilted towards the sun during summer, so naturally, the days are longer. 

The idea behind changing the clocks is to take advantage of our natural light so that darkness falls at a later time in the day.  

When is daylight saving time? 

In the UK, daylight savings begin in March and end in November. In 2023, the clocks will go forward by one hour on Sunday, 26 March, at 1.00 am and go back by one hour on Sunday, 29 October, at 2.00 am. 

The start and end of daylight saving time differ depending on where you are in the world. Most of the United States, Europe, New Zealand, and some areas of Australia, South America and the Middle East observe DST.

Most of Asia and Africa do not change their clocks to align with daylight savings time. 

Alarm clock next to an unmade bed

How do daylight saving hours affect your sleep? 

You might have noticed that when the clocks change, you feel sleepy or groggy in the days and weeks after. This tends to be more noticeable in Spring when the clocks go forward, and we lose an hour. 

The Sleep Foundation highlights one study which found that the average person gets 40 minutes less sleep on the Monday after changing the clocks in Spring compared to other nights of the year.

Sleep deprivation and temporary insomnia are two of the biggest problems that can occur when the clocks go forward. This can lead to something known as ‘sleep debt’, the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep over time. 

Getting the right amount of sleep is essential to our overall well-being. It affects our memory, metabolism, mood, immunity, and cardiovascular health. Some studies have even found a slight increase in reported heart problems around the time daylight saving hours are introduced in Spring

Tips for dealing with daylight saving hours 

Children, teenagers, and people who already suffer from sleep problems are more likely to be affected by daylight saving hours than anyone else. If you fall into that category, there are things you can do to prepare for the clocks changing.

Some sleep experts recommend going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night in the week before the clocks go forward. This will slowly bring your bedtime forward, preparing you for the change before it happens.

Other tips for dealing with daylight saving hours

  • Change your clocks the night before so that you’re prepared to start your day at the new time when you wake up the next day.
  • Don’t be tempted to stay in bed for an extra hour on the morning the clocks change. This will make it harder for you to fall asleep at bedtime.
  • Try to get as much natural daylight as possible when the clocks change. The difference between light and dark helps regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle (otherwise known as your circadian rhythm).  

Little boy sleeping with a teddy

The advantages of daylight saving time 

The idea behind daylight saving time is to make the most of our natural daylight throughout the year.

In theory, we should be able to conserve the energy we would have used to light our homes, businesses, and public spaces. This saves money and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases we produce. 

However, critics argue that the effect of changing the clocks has a minimal impact on the amount of energy we use. Some areas, including the European Union, have previously argued for abandoning daylight saving hours altogether. 

Your frequently asked questions 

In this section, we’ll look at your frequently asked questions on daylight saving hours.

When is the time change? 

The clocks will go forward by one hour on the last Sunday in March and go back by one hour on the last Sunday in October.

Is the UK getting rid of daylight savings time?

At the moment, there are no plans for the UK to get rid of daylight savings. Although the European Parliament voted to abandon the hour change in 2019, they are yet to implement this, and any change will not affect a post-Brexit UK.

What time should I go to bed for daylight savings? 

You should go to bed at your regular time the night before the clocks change. Sleep experts recommend preparing for the change by bringing your bedtime forward by 15 minutes each night in the days leading up to Sunday.

When should I change my clocks?

We recommend changing your clocks the night before so that you’re already working to the new time when you wake up.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, you might also be interested to learn why you shouldn’t sleep with your phone next to you.