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The impact of daylight saving time on your biological rhythm


We are switching to daylight saving time on March 28. You will therefore have to advance your watch by one hour, which means you ‘lose’ an hour of sleep. But the impact is not just limited to this. It’s something that is deeply rooted in our behaviour. We change the time twice a year, at the end of October to standard time and at the end of March to daylight saving time. But why? How does this impact our health and how can we prepare for it?

About saving energy
Introduced in the late 1970s in Europe, these time changes are supposed to help save energy. Changing the time allows you to work longer thanks to the sunlight and consume less energy. However, this has less impact today, to the point that it was supposed to be scrapped in Europe soon, before being postponed following the pandemic. The impact of the time change is above all important regarding our health and sleep pattern.

Much more than a lost hour of sleep

It is commonly said that you will “lose an hour of sleep” when we switch to daylight saving time. At 2 o’clock in the morning, we skip an hour and go to 3 o’clock directly. This seemingly harmless change has an impact on our rhythm and biological clock. Our circadian rhythm runs on 24-hour cycles and this ‘little’ change can disrupt us for days to come. Melatonin, the hormone that regulates our wake / sleep rhythm, is affected by longer exposure to light. So, we will be sleepy later during the day. In addition to these sleep disturbances, we also suffer from reduced attention, appetite, and a crankier mood due to the production of cortisol, also called the stress hormone. Some scientists even consider the switch to daylight saving time to be more harmful than the notorious jetlag, which is associated with changing time zone while traveling.

How to prevent the effects of time change

The current situation we’re going through right now is not making it any easier either. It has now been over a year that we have shown resilience in the face of a crisis and that both our life and work rhythms have been disrupted. To prevent this new time change for disrupting it further, you can prepare for it:

  • Go to sleep a little earlier two to three days before the time change. You gradually adapt to the new day / night cycle.
  • Avoid getting too much sleep before the time changes.
  • In general, also go to sleep at fixed times, weekdays and weekends. If sleeping in on a Saturday sounds tempting, it will change your rhythm.
  • Do a physical and / or sports activity on the weekend of March 27-28 to “tire yourself out” a little more and encourage you to go to bed earlier. In general, daily physical activity is extremely important for your sleep pattern and health.

How to get your children used to this time change

  • Full of energy and lots of light in the morning: get your little ones moving and expose them to natural light as soon as they wake up. If possible, also go to school on foot or by bicycle rather than by car.
  • Prepare for sleep a few hours before bedtime: playing in the garden or getting your children excited doesn’t help them fall asleep quickly. Create a darker environment (close the curtains, lower the shutters or blinds) at the end of the day, play more gentle games, read a story, and prepare for bed in more calm conditions.

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