Dealing with British Summer Time
The problem with British Summer Time is that while our brains understand that the clock has changed, the body’s internal clock just doesn’t get it at all. Some people are overly sensitive to the time change and it can take days, if not weeks, for them to feel right again, while others barely even notice.
In the Autumn when the clocks change, you may enjoy the extra hour of sleep, but your body wants its’ dinner an hour earlier than the clock says. When the clocks go forward in springtime, you lose an hour of sleep, and then your sleep rhythms may be disturbed which can affect the quality of your sleep for days. Going to bed "earlier" can mean difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night.
So how do you go about dealing with British Summer Time?
1. Prepare yourself in advance
In the lead up to the time change, alter the time you go to bed, and the morning alarm, by ten minutes every day for six days. Come Sunday, it will be a breeze! You can also alter your meal times too.
2. Increase the amount of exercise you’re taking
As exercise releases serotonin- a feel-good chemical in the brain that helps our bodies adjust to time - doing a little more will really help you. Even better, if you can exercise outside, earlier in the day, you’ll notice the benefits.
If you’re desperate, a nap can help, but beware. Napping can affect the quality of sleep you get overnight, and a long nap will make you feel worse. It is probably better just to go for a walk around the block!
4. Avoid stimulants
Avoid anything that generally stimulates you, such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, MSG etc. Before you sleep, try some herbal tea, or meditation, or have a warm bath to help you relax. Make sure you have your evening meal early enough so that you have time to digest it.
5. Struggling to wake up?
Open your curtains or blinds as soon as the alarm goes off so that your body reacts to the light. Research has shown the importance of light and darkness in relation to our circadian rhythms. Spend time outside during the day, where possible, and dim the lights in the evening. This way your body knows when to be awake and when to sleep.
6. Create a sleep friendly environment
Your bedroom is the most important room in the house and should be sleep-friendly. You want to fall asleep easily, stay asleep and sleep well. Basic sleep hygiene means watching what you eat and drink (as above), exercising, and creating calming rituals before bed – such as reading or listening to soothing music. You can utilise ear plugs and eye masks where needed.
7. Avoid screens
Stay away from the TV, computer screens or mobile phones in the hour before bedtime. The light will disturb the winding down process your body has.
It’s not all doom and gloom
British Summer Time has plenty of advantages. It gives us an extra hour of light in the evening which means we get to spend time outside after work. It allows us to enjoy some exposure to the sun (before it gets too hot) which boosts our vitamin D levels. We save energy in the home, and we feel generally more energetic, wanting to get out and about. Make the most of it! Winter will be back soon enough …
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