Sunday 29th March is one of the most important dates in the calendar for the sleep community, day light savings time (DST). It signals the start of British summer time and certainly in the north west of England, it is a signal that days will be lit up with sunshine (we hope).

But daylight savings time is quite a challenging time for our physiology, we lose an hour in bed and our bodily rhythms are disrupted for a sustained period of time. To quote Matthew Walker, arguably the leading voice in the sleep world, “With daylight savings time we perform a worldwide global experiment on ourselves twice a year.”

So, what is that experiment?

It significantly puts our health at risk, research in the US (1) uncovered the day after day light savings time there is a 24% increase in heart attacks and 8% risk of having a stroke. Compare that to when we reverse this process later in the year heart attacks drop the following day by 21%.

A lot of the research as to why this happens points to the disruption of our circadian rhythms as we are essentially artificially creating jet lag. Many of the key organs in our bodies have clocks that are functioning based on routine, performing activities such as releasing hormones and optimising mental capacity. Throw these routines off and you create problems.

So, what can we do to mitigate?

The best thing you can do is get to bed a little earlier the night before, this will soften the immediate impact of DST.

On the days following DST get into a regular sleep / wake routine quickly and this will start to get your circadian processes back in line.

Keep smiling!

References