UK clocks change: do this tonight to avoid daylight savings jet-lag, says sleep expert

An hour's difference can mess up your sleep for days – here's how to head it off

person lying on bed while covering face with pillow and holding eyeglasses
(Image credit: Isabella and Louisa Fischer on Unsplash)

In the UK the clocks are due to go back this weekend, which means we all get an extra hour in bed. Sounds like great news, right? Well, according to sleep experts, the daylight savings time change can have a detrimental impact on our sleep for several days afterwards. 

It's recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but a change of even an hour can have knock your sleep schedule right out of kilter. We spoke to Dr Verena Senn to find out exactly why the clock change can have such an impact, and how to avoid daylight savings jet lag. Verena is the resident sleep expert at Emma (the brand behind two of our best mattress picks right now – the Emma Original and Emma Premium), and has a PhD in Neurobiology and nearly 15 years' of research on the brain, sleep patterns and psychological behaviour under her belt, so she knows her stuff.

“The production of hormones that influence sleep rely in part on a sort of central system in the brain that is sensitive to changes in light," explains Venera. "When the clocks go back and the usual patterns of light we experience throughout the day shift, our body clocks can be disrupted, also disrupting the cycle of the hormone production that helps you sleep.”

Woman stretching and smiling in bed

(Image credit: Getty)

So how can we avoid this knock-on effect? Verena suggests heading off the shift by starting to adjust your bedtime in the run up to Sunday. Moving your bedtime 15 or 30 minutes earlier each night gives your body some extra rest. 

If you've missed the boat, there are things you can do after Sunday to help your body readjust quicker. “A great way to help yourself sleep better following the time change is to try and get some bright light first thing in the morning," says Verena. "This is because this blueish light helps to keep you alert during the day which in turn helps with falling asleep better at night.” Switching from a regular alarm to one of the best wake-up lights can help with this, or if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, you might want to invest in a dedicated SAD lamp

Why is it so important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, anyway?  “Keeping to a regular sleep schedule is one of the best ways to ensure you wake up feeling refreshed each day," says Verena. "Clear external structures like working, eating and activities such as exercising, help your body to recognise when sleep is due." 

“However, it's not just your sleep schedule that is important, but also your sleep hygiene," she adds. This refers to the behavioural and environmental factors that affect our quality of sleep. Good sleep hygiene, Verena says, involves things like taking time out to relax before bedtime, avoiding caffeine and blue screen light in the evenings, and ensuring your bedroom is the right temperature and darkness. "By practicing good sleep hygiene we can put ourselves in the best possible place for having a great night’s sleep," she adds. 

Ruth Hamilton

Ruth is a lifestyle journalist specialising in sleep and wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to certified experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there. She's currently Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide and TechRadar, and prior to that ran the Outdoors and Wellness channels on T3 (now covered by Matt Kollat and Beth Girdler-Maslen respectively).