What to know about the clocks going back
A sure-fire signal that we’re well and truly into autumn is the changing of the clocks. Our days get a bit shorter and evenings darker as the winter draws closer.
The change from BST (British Summer Time) to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) does however bring the added treat of one more hour in bed.
When do the clocks go back?
The clocks always go back one hour on the last Sunday of October at 2am.
So that’s Sunday 27th October 2019, Sunday 25th October 2020, and Sunday 31st October 2021.
Why do the clocks go back?
Every year in March and October we switch between British Summer Time and Greenwich Mean Time, springing the clocks forward an hour in Spring, and falling back an hour in Autumn.
The idea was the brainchild of United States founding father, Benjamin Franklin. In 1784, while in Paris, Benjamin Franklin suggested that if people woke up an hour earlier they’d receive more exposure to sunlight.
It wasn’t until after 1907 that this theory became a reality when William Willet popularised the idea in a pamphlet called ‘The Waste of Daylight’ in which he detailed how summer daylight hours were wasted. He argued that we’d consume less energy for heat and light – fuelled mostly by coal at the time – because we’d be more exposed to the natural light and heat of the sun.
The UK introduced British Summer Time hours in 1916, allowing everyone to enjoy the perks of summer with more time to enjoy the daylight.
This forward change in March also meant a loss of early morning light in the autumn and winter months, so BST hours change back to GMT every October.
Help your child adapt to the clock change
For many parents, this also means disruption to their child’s sleeping pattern and an extra challenge to ensure they still get their recommended 10 hours sleep.
A simple way to beat the clock, is changing your child’s bedtime a few days before the clocks change.
Starting a few days earlier, put your child to bed 20 minutes later than usual to help them slowly adjust to the change. Do this each night to Sunday so when Monday morning arrives, the new time zone won’t be as much of a shock to their system.
We conducted a report with the University of Leeds looking into the sleep of British children aged 6 – 11. We found that many children in this age group get as little as seven hours of sleep a night – despite the NHS recommendation of ten hours. A staggering 83 per cent were also found to be awake by 6.30am on a weekday, despite five per cent still being awake at 10pm the night before.
Tips for surviving the coming winter months
As the days grow shorter, hibernation temptation is beginning to set in… so how can you get out of bed on the right side after the clocks go back?
Our sleep expert, Dr Nerina, explains how:
During the colder months people are proven to be less likely to want to engage in social activities, instead opting to remain curled up in the warmth of their homes. The Daily Express reported on a survey conducted by GoCompare.com, which revealed that six in ten respondents said that they preferred to stay at home on the sofa with food and drink rather than go out, with 24% admitting they are altogether less social.
Don’t let the darkness get the better of your mood. In the working week, the average adult can expect to see just three and a half hours of natural light per day. Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of the happy hormone, serotonin. In the winter months, your serotonin levels can dip, so try to get outside as much as possible. Even just half an hour on your lunch break will make a huge difference.
You can boost your falling serotonin levels with your favourite chocolate! Dark chocolate contains tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. The lack of sun exposure may leave your body craving tryptophan… so don’t be too hard on yourself for having a square or two of the good stuff!
A recent study conducted by Harvard Medical School showed adults sleep for 2.7 hours longer per day during the winter – yet they still long for more. Once again, the lack of sunlight is partly to blame. The darker days cause your brain to produce more of the hormone melatonin, which promotes fatigue and therefore makes you sleepy. On top of this, the shorter days disrupt your sleep cycle, which means that the hours we do manage to grab are less effective. Create your own perfect sleeping environment by adding layers to your bedding and placing a hot water bottle at your feet, thereby promoting a better quality of sleep.
Exercise releases stress relieving hormones and gives you a clearer, more positive outlook on your day ahead. In the same Harvard study, one in five adults revealed that they cut down on exercise in the winter, whilst 18 per cent were more likely to reach for the snacks, both of which contribute to weight gain with an obvious effect on self-confidence. The seasonal change causes many to start craving carbohydrates and while these are a vital part of any diet, it’s important to strike a balance. If you need a snack, fill up on foods like walnuts, bananas and tomatoes: they all help your body to produce serotonin and will lift your mood.