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How does daylight saving affect your sleep?

Sunday the 5th of October marked the start of Daylight Saving Time (DST) throughout many parts of Australia. Although it means winters finally over and the longer, brighter days have begun, it also means losing an hour of precious sleep.

Although the clocks are raring to spring forward an hour into the summer season, the majority of people are never ready to sacrifice an hour on the pillow.

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What is daylight savings?

When you put the clocks forward you’re essentially moving an hour from the morning and adding it to the evening, which is why it’s lighter for longer. Although DST is no longer used in all Australian territories, it was originally practiced over the entire country in World War I and World War II, in order to preserve essential fuel for the soldiers.

What does it do?

Moving the clocks in either direction has a massive effect on social existence. Essentially, changing the clocks is society controlling the formation of the day, dictating when daylight hours will occur – to a certain extent at least – and it resets the body’s natural 24 hour cycle.

Adapting

How well you adapt to losing an hour’s sleep and knocking your body’s natural day-night cycle out of sync will depend on a few things.

Generally it’s much more difficult to adjust to losing an hour of sleep in the spring than it is gaining an hour in the autumn. It’s a little bit like air travel; if you travel east then you lose time and will struggle to go to bed earlier which means that you’ll naturally wake up at an ungodly hour of the morning. When travelling west however, you gain time and fall asleep really easily, but when it comes to rising and shining, you’d definitely rather not.

How long will it take to adapt?

Although there’s no concrete answer, as a general rule of thumb most people say that it takes around a day to get used to a time change of an hour. This obviously varies depending on the individual though, so it may take your body slightly longer to get used to the change.

How does it make you feel?

If you’re already getting a decent amount of sleep – around eight hours is recommended – and you make a conscious effort to go to bed a little earlier and get a comfortable night sleep, the night before the clocks go forward, then you may wake up feeling refreshed. If your body is already deprived of sleep though, for example if you’re only getting around six hours per night, then you’re likely to suffer over the next couple of days and you’ll find a reduction in your productivity, concentration, memory and reaction times.

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Why is natural light important?

Light acts as a natural cue for your internal body clock and it relies on receiving a certain amount of light at certain intensity. Dr Victoria Revell of the University of Surrey says:

“Light is critical for our health and wellbeing. Ensuring that we receive adequate light levels at the appropriate time of day benefits our alertness, mood, productivity, sleep patterns and many aspects of our physiology”

Light in the morning helps to wake you up and make you feel energized and alert. Dim light on the other hand cues the body to become tired and go to sleep.

Essentially, Daylight Saving Time is merely a social adjustment, if it didn’t happen your body would eventually adjust to lighter mornings and darker evenings and you’d get by without a glimmer of thought to DST.

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