Our natural circadian rhythm or body clock is designed to gently adjust in response to gradual changes in daylight by roughly two minutes a day. However, it will be asked to jump by a full hour in one go at the end of British Summer Time when we are effectively given an extra hour overnight.
Now known as social jet lag, as it mimics a jump in time zone similar to long haul flights across different time zones, the one-hour adjustment can interfere greatly with all the body’s systems including mental alertness and digestion.
1. Plan ahead with a gradual change of bedtime in order to adjust to the new time zone
or babies and young children, move bedtimes and wake times back by ten minutes a day over six days, so 7pm becomes 6.50pm, 6:30pm becomes 6:20pm and so forth. For older school children make 15-minute adjustments starting on Thursday evening.
2. Adjust daily routines to keep every part of your body clock and routines in sync
Make sure to move meal times, naptime, and bath time for babies and young children. For older children and adults, simply move back your bedtime routine such as cleaning teeth (without the bright light on) and reading a book before bed.
3. Improve ‘sleep hygiene’ for you and the whole family
Use this time as the starting point for establishing proper sleep hygiene for the whole family. If you have kids, lead by example by not taking your phones into the bedroom, making it easier to set reasonable boundaries, with one rule for all. If you have poor sleep hygiene your children will learn this habit from you.
4. Light diminishes, so get outside in order to capture sunlight to make vitamin D
From here on in the hours of daylight will decline to just 7 hours and 40 minutes on the shortest day in December (winter solstice), compared to 16 hours and 50 minutes on the longest day in June (summer solstice). Being outside helps stimulate cortisol production our ‘wake-up hormone‘ and strengthens our circadian rhythm making it easier to get to sleep at night. Sunlight on our skin also makes vitamin D, which helps us cope with the winter blues and improves our mood and sleep. A forced 60 minute leap in one night can have a huge impact, especially for babies and children who don’t fully understand why things are being turned upside down and why mummy and daddy are still in bed when they are bright and breezy in the old time zone. More often than not, it is simply not possible to manage the whole jump for little people all in one go.
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