Although the recent UK snow would suggest otherwise, it’s now officially spring, meaning it’s time for the clocks to change. This year the clocks go forward on Sunday 25 March, meaning you’ll effectively lose an hour of sleep.
Each year, this switch to British Summer Time (BST) causes a range of surprising events across the country, including an increase in incidents of heart attack, stroke and car crashes. But according to Maryanne Taylor, founder of The Sleep Works, most adults will notice the change by feeling like they’ve experienced jet lag.
“Even just one hour can derail our internal body clock. It can make us feel more tired or groggy during the day,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Our concentration and productivity levels may be decreased as we feel more sleepy.”
While losing an hour of sleep is an inconvenience for most of us, the effects of BST can be much more acute for people who who suffer with sleep issues, such as insomnia, Taylor says. Knowing the clocks are changing can increase sleep anxiety, causing some to lose more than an hour of shut-eye and fuelling sleep deprivation further.
To limit the impact of the clocks changing on your body and mind, Taylor recommends making some lifestyle changes in the days running up to switch, to ease yourself into summer living.
Instead of jumping to one hour less sleep in a single night, Taylor recommends gradually changing your sleeping pattern this week.
“Over the next few days, shift your bedtime 15 minutes earlier and wake up 15 minutes earlier in the morning,” she says. “Continue shifting 15 minutes earlier each night until you get to the earlier hour, all ready for the hour change.”
On Sunday you should avoid having a lie-in as this will make you feel groggier and disrupt your body clock even further. “Instead, get outside on Sunday morning to allow your body access to natural sunlight, which will also help you sleep better on Sunday night,” Taylor adds.
Previous research has suggested sleep deprivation can cause us to crave sugary foods. However, registered nutrition consultant Charlotte Stirling-Reed says fuelling your body with goodness can help you deal with the clocks changing.
“Food gives you energy, so ultimately making sure you’re not skipping meals and that you’re giving yourself plenty of filling and wholesome foods at each meal can help,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Foods such as porridge, whole grains, nuts and seeds can help to top up energy levels. On top of this, it’s important to try to stay hydrated as being dehydrated can lead to fatigue and lack of concentration. Don’t forget to include plenty of fruits and veggies for extra hydration and a boost of vitamins and minerals too.”
[READ MORE: 7 ways the clocks changing actually impacts us]
Unfortunately, disrupted sleep and lack of energy can continue way past Sunday due to the lighter evenings. “Our natural sleep hormone, melatonin, is influenced by light and dark and the lighter the environment, the less our body feels the need to sleep,” Taylor explains. “Darkening the environment for sleep is essential to aid the production of the melatonin hormone.”
Because of this, Taylor recommends investing in blackout blinds or an eye mask as the evenings grow lighter. If your street is noisy outside from people enjoying the warmer weather, she advises using white noise to block out external sound when you have an early start.
In addition, she offers these tips to help you nod off all year round:
1) Allow yourself sufficient wind down time for up to an hour before bedtime.
2) Have a no-screens rule an hour before bed. Screens emit blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin.
3) Have a hot bath or shower around 30 minutes before getting into bed in order to raise the body temperature. The subsequent drop in temperature will help you feel more sleepy.