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How British Summer Time Affects Sleep

By sleepcounciladmin on March 26, 2013

What time the average Briton goes to bed infographicThis weekend the clocks go forward and British Summer Time begins.

Now normally I love this time of year (even if I do lose that extra hour of sleep) but this year with the abundance of snow in situ and plummeting temperatures, I’m not quite ready to lose my 60 minutes of kip in a warm and cosy bed.

The idea behind British Summertime is to make the most of the hours of sunlight during the summer months (Sun? What’s that? I hear you ask) by advancing the clock by an hour. It was first put into place during World War I and has since been credited with aiding productivity in the evenings, reducing the number of road accidents in the mornings and saving energy.

But what effect does this have on your sleep? When the clocks go forward, many find it hard to adjust to the time change. Although it is only an hour, it can take weeks for some people to get back into their routine and feel normal again.  The average Briton goes to bed at 11.15pm and gets just six hours and 35 minutes of sleep – lose an hour of that and there will definitely be some yawns the next day!

However for some, especially those who have difficulty sleeping, the onset of British Summer Time is not welcomed.

That’s because the onset of sleep is triggered by an increase in the production of the hormone melatonin – something we have less of in summer!  It is this hormone that helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm and promotes restful sleep.

It is produced in the evening to help us sleep and the lighter nights suppress production of melatonin. Low amounts of ambient light (such as that given off by radio alarm clocks, mobile phones and laptops) also have the same effect.  It is therefore important to keep the bedroom as dark as possible to encourage this production.

If ‘light’ does stops you from dropping off to sleep, or wakes you up earlier, try using an eye mask, thicker curtains or blackout blinds to block it out.

So despite my protests to postpone the clocks going forward , I thought I would share you with you some simple steps to make sure you get a good night’s sleep on the run up to Sunday 31st March.

• Create the right sleeping environment – keep it cool, dark and quiet.

• Wind down and relax properly before routine – think warm bath, milky drink, reading a book or listening to relaxation tapes.

• Eliminate bedroom distractions such as TVs, laptops or mobile phones. A bed is for sleeping!

• Make sure your bed is comfortable and supportive. Sleep is disturbed if your bed is too soft, too hard, too small or too old.

• Gradually move your bedtime a little earlier, just by 10 minutes or so, in the days approaching the clocks going forward. It won’t seem too bad come Sunday when we lose those precious 60 minutes!

• Stay in bed and sleep for as long as normal on Sunday morning.

• And don’t wake up feeling glum about your ‘lost hour’ – be happy, it’s officially Summer…. well we can wish!

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