When do clocks go back and how it could affect your sleep schedule

So much for getting more sleep when the clocks go back...

Getting a good night's sleep is a vital part of any successful day. (Picture: Paolese / Adobe Stock)Getting a good night's sleep is a vital part of any successful day. (Picture: Paolese / Adobe Stock)
Getting a good night's sleep is a vital part of any successful day. (Picture: Paolese / Adobe Stock)

When the clocks go back in autumn, we expect to get a better night's sleep.

After all, an extra hour in bed is nothing short of total bliss - unless you have children or pets with no concept of time. However, the reality could be far different, with researchers suggesting that the clocks going back will actually hinder our sleep over the following days.

Here's how they say the darker mornings and shorter daytimes will imapct both our sleep and our health, as well as when the clocks are actually going back this year.

When do the clocks go back?

Once a year, clocks in the UK are set forward an hour in the spring, and then back an hour in the autumn. The clocks go forward by one hour on the final Sunday in March each year, which this year was 26 March. Similarly, in the autumn they go back on the last Sunday of October.

This year, the clocks will go back on Sunday 29 October, with the changeover officially taking place at 2am.

Phones and most other electronic devices usually go back an hour automatically, but some devices - such as microwaves and car dashboards - might need to be reset manually. Clocks and watches will also have to be pushed back in person.

How can our sleep be affected?

While the extra hour on Sunday is a great start to the day, sleep experts believe that in the long run our nights might end up more disturbed.

The shorter days creep up on us quickly as we move through autumn - before you know it the clocks have gone back, it’s pitch black at 5pm, and still dark when we leave the house in the morning. Our mood and productivity levels can change, we’re at risk of experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and it can have other mental and physical health effects.

Elaine Hollerhead, an occupational therapist and ambassador for adjustable bed retailer Opera Beds, said: “These changes can have a significant impact on sleep, mood and overall wellbeing. To meet the demands and challenges of everyday life six-eight hours a night of undisturbed sleep is recommended. But darker mornings give little incentive for people to get up at their usual time and darker evenings tempt them to go to bed earlier - disrupting their sleep pattern.”

Dr Sue Peacock, a consultant health psychologist who specialises in sleep disorders and founder of Sleep Well with Dr Sue, added: "Natural light signals to our brain that it's time to be awake and alert. As the evenings become darker earlier, our exposure to this diminishes.

“Darker evenings can trigger the release of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, earlier on - which means some people may feel sleepy earlier than they usually would, especially in relaxing environments like dimly-lit rooms. When it’s darker in the morning, it can signal to us it’s still nighttime when our alarm goes off, making it more challenging to get out of bed.

"The decrease in natural light can impact our cognitive functioning - reduced alertness and concentration levels during the day are common complaints when the evenings get darker earlier.”

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