The clocks going back can play havoc with our sleep routine [Photo: Getty]
In the words of Jon Snow “Winter is coming.” This weekend to be precise. As we prepare to rewind our clocks by an hour and rejoice in the hope that this might mean a whole extra hour in bed, we’ve got a bit of news that might just pop your snooze bubble. Soz.
Because while having an extra 60 minutes ZZZ time might sound like the dream (literally), according to the sleep experts changing the clocks by even as little as an hour can actually disrupt your sleep pattern which could end up causing sleep difficulties for many of us *sobs*
“As cavemen we would have slept in complete darkness, the sun going down was the main trigger to signal to us that it was time to get ready for bed. This natural rhythm would have shifted by just 2 minutes a day. Thus a 60 minute shift is a massive adjustment to take on board, and can throw our whole sleep pattern out of sync with our body clock,” explains ‘Dave Gibson, Warren Evans’ Sleep Expert.
Other sleep experts agree the extra hour can be disruptive. “The sleep clock in the brain runs on a rhythm which functions optimally when it works to a regular routine,” explains Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Silentnight’s sleep expert. “This rhythm is influenced by the light/dark levels which then influence the amount of melatonin we produce. It’s likely that the clocks changing will leave you feeling slightly out of balance.”
But before you start sobbing into the Ovaltine, according to Dr Nerina this weekend’s time shift could be the perfect time to actually improve your sleep quality.
“Use the clocks going back as an opportunity to put in place some positive changes that will help to promote a great night’s sleep,” she explains.
Adjust your bedtime gradually
“Studies suggest that it takes people several days to readjust to the clocks going back - a bit like a mild version of jetlag,” explains SIMBA Sleep Expert and Author, Sammy Margo. Dave Gibson suggests adjusting your sleep pattern over two to three days. “Friday night - go to bed ½ hour later. Saturday morning wake up ½ hour later, eat all meals ½ hour later, go to bed 1 hour later Saturday night. Sunday wake up time 1 hour later. You are now in sync for the whole of Sunday and refreshed for work on the Monday,” he says.
Follow a regular wind down routine
Allow your brain to switch off by avoiding checking emails or social media accounts for 90 minutes before bedtime. “Instead, why not read a book, listen to relaxing music and have a bath using relaxing essential oils, such as lavender, to help promote sleepiness,” advises Dr Nerina.
Do you get the lie-in guilt? [Photo: Getty]
Hit-up the gym
Sure the darker nights make you want to swap Zumba for your sofa, but according to Dr Nerina a regular fitness regime can help promote better sleep. “During the winter people are often less motivated to exercise but it’s crucial to take part in exercise regularly, as it’s a very effective way of reducing stress hormone levels and thus enabling you to sleep more deeply,” she says.
Get some sunlight
“Get at least 15 minutes of sunlight exposure first thing in the morning. This helps to reset your body’s natural biological clock,” advises Sammy Margo.
Skip your pre-bed time cuppa
“Caffeine can severely reduce sleep quality – after just one cup of coffee it can take up to 10 hours for the caffeine to leave your system,” explains Dr Nerina. “Avoid coffee close to bedtime or try switching it for decaffeinated alternatives. Dehydration is a key cause of frequent waking or ‘shallow’ sleep, so increase your fluid intake by drinking more water, herbal teas and diluted fruit juices before bed.”
Create the perfect sleep environment.
According to Dr Nerina making your bedroom tranquil, calm and free from clutter, junk and technology will help you become more relaxed and rested. She also suggests making the place you sleep a technology-free zone. “You should never bring your work life into the bedroom,” she says.
Eat your way to a better night’s sleep.
“Diet plays a significant role on the quality of sleep we have,” explains Dr Nerina. She advises avoiding heavy meals before bedtime. “If you often wake up in the night feeling hungry then try having a little snack before bedtime. Snacking during the day on low GI foods such as yoghurt, nuts, fruits, seeds and lean meats will also keep your blood sugar level stable, which results in a better night’s sleep.” The time you eat your meals can also have an influence on your sleep quality. Sammy Margo suggest doing a mealtime rejig. “Reorganise your mealtime schedule by eating dinner 15 minutes later than normal over the next few nights,” she says.
A third of us don’t think we’ll be able to lie-in on Sunday because of our body clock’s [Photo: Getty]
Change your sleep mindset.
Can’t sleep, so you start stressing about not getting enough sleep, which makes you even less likely to sleep. Sound familiar? “The more pressure we put on ourselves to sleep, the less likely we are to actually fall asleep,” explains Dr Nerina. “Often when we have a big event the next day we struggle to sleep, in such cases it is often more beneficial to focus on getting some good quality rest, rather than sleep. When you focus on rest instead you will be surprised by how quickly you fall asleep.”
Help your children adjust
“If your child is a born early-riser, then you should consider smaller changes over a longer time period to ensure that the extra hour is fully accounted for,” explains Dave Gibson. “Alternatively, for a late-riser, you may find moving the bedtime back by half an hour rather than an hour will help. This will also give you more time to get ready in the mornings.” Dave suggests. And don’t worry! “Any disruption tends to be temporary. Most infants and children get back on schedule within 3 days to a week,” he says.
Ditch the lie-in guilt
New research by SIMBA Sleep has revealed a third of us can’t lie in due to our body clocks and a similar number don’t lie in because they feel like they are wasting time in bed and can’t shake off the stay-in-bed guilt. But Sammy Margo believes actually allowing yourself that extra hour in bed is vital. “Claiming the extra hour in bed for National Lie-In Day is an opportunity to take stock of your sleep as we move into the winter months and reflect on the quality and quantity of your sleep,” she says. And if a sleep expert says we should take it, who are we to argue?
Will you be taking your extra hour in bed? Let us know @YahooStyleUK