Why do we have daylight savings?
Daylight savings time (DST) was originally started to help save energy costs at night time – though, today it seems it’s more about helping us get the most out of our waking day.
On the first Saturday night in October, Australians (except for those in QLD, NT and WA) will move their clocks forward and sacrifice one hour of sleep for the benefit of enjoying more daylight towards the end of the day.
Then, in April, we’ll do the opposite and enjoy an extra hour of night’s sleep to reduce the number of dark hours in our waking day.
The downside is, of course, that we need to adjust to a new sleeping pattern – as well as battle the potential health effects associated with losing and gaining an additional hour’s sleep.
How does daylight savings impact your sleep?
Transitioning to daylight savings can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal ‘clock’.
Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that regulates many processes in your body. Your body clock tells your body when to sleep, rise, eat – and, it’s dictated by the natural light and dark in your environment.
So, naturally, when you disrupt this – for daylight savings or by travelling to a new time zone, for example – your body needs to go through a period of adjustment or transition. And, for some people, this transition can be more challenging.
In fact, daylight savings time can worsen a condition scientists are calling ‘social jet lag’ – that is, when the body's internal clock is out of sync with a person's social and work clocks. In people who are obese, or have health problems relating to obesity, this effect can be worse.
For the average person, though, the transition usually results in fairly minor – yet still inconvenient – changes, such as:
- Sleeping for less hours
- Sleeping less efficiently
- More night time restlessness
- Mood changes
- Increased daytime sleepiness in teenagers
Limiting the impact on your health
If you want to have a minimal impact by the effect of daylight savings, or if you notice that the transition really knocks you around, the following tips from the Sleep Health Foundation may help you adjust:
- Make the bedroom as bright as possible when you first wake up in the morning
- Eat a good breakfast
- Go outside in the sunlight in the early mornings
- Exercise outside in the mornings
- Try to get between seven to nine hours sleep each night
- Don’t exercise just before going to bed
- Don’t drink coffee, tea or other caffeine drinks in the evening, avoid smoking just before bed or during the night
- Don’t go to bed hungry or too soon after eating a large meal
References available upon request.