When do the clocks change? Expert says clocks going forward can boost wellbeing - but damage performance

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British Summer Time, also known as Daylight Saving Time, was created following a campaign by British builder William Willett in 1907

According to Dr Audrey Tang, a chartered psychologist and author of The Leader’s Guide to Resilience, the clocks going forward an hour can actually boost our wellbeing - but we might notice an impact on our work performance.

This is what you need to know as the clocks are set to change this weekend.

‘More likely to feel stress’

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Losing an hour of sleep can have a big impact on our wellbeing (Photo: Shutterstock)Losing an hour of sleep can have a big impact on our wellbeing (Photo: Shutterstock)
Losing an hour of sleep can have a big impact on our wellbeing (Photo: Shutterstock)

Dr Tang told PA news agency that the shift in time could bring a “mixed bag” of responses to our lives.

She said: “If we’re sleeping less, not only does it mean we are more likely to feel stress, it raises our cortisol levels.

“We don’t produce so much of a hormone that makes us less hungry which means we eat more as well.

“That as well as the lack of sleep all has collateral damage that goes on from that whereby you become more irritable which can damage your relationships.

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“You can’t concentrate so it damages your work performance and then not being able to sleep reduces our immune system.”

‘Humans feel happier when the sun is out’

However, Dr Tang explained that the clocks going forward isn’t all bad news - our wellbeing actually gets a boost from more exposure to sunlight.

She said: “Naturally as humans, a lot of us tend to respond better with daylight, we tend to feel happier, we tend to feel brighter when the sun is out.

“Not only do we benefit from the extended hours that we can enjoy but we’re in a better mood when we do it, which in turn has the virtuous cycle of boosting our mood and keeping us energised for longer.”

‘We respond well to routines’

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Dr Tang explained that as the evenings get lighter and longer, we can improve our sleep patterns by having a bedtime routine which includes doing things like darkening your room, placing a glass of water by your bed and switching off your phone.

She said: “Work out what works for you and then engage in a routine that suits you.

“As humans we respond very well to routines, so it might be harder at first, but trying any of those will actually get us into a nice pattern that we can then keep using.”

When do the clocks go forward?

Twice a year, we have to alter our clocks either an hour forward or an hour back, depending on whether it's the start of the end of the British summer.

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The clocks will go forward at 1am on the last Sunday of March, which this year is this Sunday (28 March). The clocks will then go back again at 2am on the last Sunday in October.

As the clocks go forward, we’re effectively losing an hour during the night in spring, and initially, we will notice darker mornings and lighter evenings as the number of daylight hours continues to get longer.

Why do we change the clocks twice a year?

British Summer Time (BST), also known as Daylight Saving Time, was initially designed to help people maximise their sunlight hours all throughout the year.

It was created following a campaign by British builder, William Willett, in 1907, with the Summer Time Act of 1916. Willett wrote about his proposal in a pamphlet called The Waste of Daylight, which was published in 1907.

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Willett (who is actually Coldplay frontman Chris Martin’s great-great-grandfather), proposed the idea to keep days longer in the summer so he could play golf for longer.

In the pamphlet, Willett wrote, “Nevertheless, standard time remains so fixed, that for nearly half the year the sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep, and is rapidly nearing the horizon, having already passed its western limit, when we reach home after the work of the day is over.

“Under the most favourable circumstances, there then remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal.”

The new system was also thought to benefit more than just keen golfers, but also that making the most of natural sunlight would conserve energy, which was essential during World War I when coal was limited.

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After much lobbying, Willett's idea was eventually introduced to the UK a year after his death, and just after Germany and Austria also introduced the daylight saving system.

Why is it controversial?

While some may think it’s a good idea to make the most out of our daylight, many believe that the system isn’t that beneficial and that it actually causes major problems - especially around Europe where there are three time zones.

Like the UK, countries in mainland Europe also change their clocks in summer and winter.

The problem largely lies with the difference in sunlight around the continent, as northern countries get much less sunlight than southern countries, so the clock changes have a more severe effect on some places than others.

A survey conducted in 2019 by the European Commission found that 84 per cent of 4.6 million respondents said they wanted to scrap Daylight Saving Time.