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How the clocks going back affects your sleep

alarm clock - clocks go back

Daylight savings and your sleep

On 28th October 2018, the clocks go back one hour, marking the end of British Summer Time (BST). As your clock ticks round to 2am, we jump back to 1am again, giving you an extra hour of shut-eye to start your Sunday morning. We call this a move into Daylight Savings time, or DST.

Why do the clocks go back?

Though not the first to suggest a daylight savings plan, William Willett is widely credited in the UK with proposing the change.  In the early 1900s, Willett noticed that many people were still in bed or getting ready for their day as it got light in the morning, then were limited in the evening by the early darkening. To combat this and get the most light out of winter days, he published a pamphlet titled “The Waste of Daylight” detailing the benefits of moving the clocks back to mark the end of BST.

If you have ever been confused by daylight savings time, you might not be particularly impressed with Willitt’s original suggestion. He advocated for an 80-minute change, to be done in four steps by changing your clock back 20 minutes each Sunday in September. We aren’t sure we would have been able to keep up!

At the time, the main benefits to DST were a reduction in the use of coal in evenings and getting the most productivity out of daylight hours. These were particularly important in the thick of the First World War which had a huge influence on why the clocks changed for the first time in 1916 – Sadly this was just one year after Willett died.

What does an extra hour of sleep do?

You might not necessarily sleep the entire extra hour as your body will still be inclined to waking up at the earlier time. However, any extra sleep might impact your sleep cycle in some way, which in turn will affect how you feel waking up.

person sleeping in bed

A typical sleep cycle is made up of 5 sleep stages and lasts approximately 90 minutes up to about 110 minutes.  Depending on when you doze off, an extra hour in bed could significantly improve your chances of increasing the number of complete sleep cycles you experience.

What are the stages of sleep?

Stage 1 –

Within very little time, you can enter the first light sleep stage. Lasting for around seven minutes, your muscle activity will slow and relax, though you will still be easily woken.  

Stage 2 –

During the second stage, your breathing and heart rate will slow too. Though this is still fairly light sleep, there is a marked difference in the speed of brain wave frequency, going from an increase to dropping right down. If you are just planning a nap, you would hope not to sleep beyond this stage.

Stage 3 and 4 –

Typically starting around 35-45 minutes after sleep starts, you sink into a deeper sleep throughout stage three. This will slow brain activity, creating more delta brainwaves. You will be far less responsive and this deepens to the fourth stage, through which you are restoring muscles and tissues.

You will feel disorientated if woken from this deep stage of sleep, and you will be considerably harder to disturb.

Stage 5 –

REM Sleep, standing for Rapid Eye Movement, describes the sleep stage in which you have your most vivid dreams. Fascinatingly, signals will be sent from your brain to cause a form of temporary paralysis, stopping you from acting out your dreams, keeping you safe.

As the name suggests, your eyes will be flickering rapidly and your heart rate and breathing will become irregular. Each time you enter this stage throughout the night, it will last longer up to approximately an hour.

The importance of REM sleep

Though much of the muscle and tissue recovery occurs in the stage before REM, REM sleep is vital for a healthy brain. You are unconsciously exercising important neural connections which boost mental wellbeing.

portrait of middle aged/senior woman with sea in the background

The regions in your brain that are used for learning are stimulated throughout REM sleep. Dreaming and processing information in this state develops this, and research has shown that all people dream even if it is not remembered. This is why babies spend around 50% of their sleep cycle in REM while adults only experience about 20%.

As explained by Dr Chris Winter (author of Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It) “Unlike deep sleep, which is really concerned with rest and recovery, REM sleep has lots more to do with concentration, focus, memory consolidation, and pain perception.” Getting enough of this strengthens the brain against long term conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

As we age, memory and mental processing issues can arise. Getting a great night’s sleep, where you are able to go through your sleep cycle a few times is incredibly important for a healthy mind. Find out more sleep advice from Dr Hussein.

You might, therefore, be grateful for a night which hits the snooze button on your behalf. If you wake up feeling more refreshed and alert than usual, maybe longer sleep is a habit to get into. At Kally Sleep, our pillows are ergonomically designed to support with great quality sleep. In particular, we can help with common sleep issues such as discomfort or joint pains including back pain, letting you get the best out of your sleep. Shop here.

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