One in four people will suffer from health problems after the time change. The change to summer or winter time disrupts the sleep rhythm and leads to problems falling asleep, sleep disorders and a reduction in concentration and performance. Find out here why the time change causes poor sleep and what tips you can use to prepare your body for the change and still sleep restfully.
Table of Contents
- The change to summer or winter time
- Our internal clock
- 5 Ssleep tips for the time change
1. The change to summer or winter time
The clocks in Germany are changed twice a year. In autumn we switch from summer to winter time, and in spring we switch back to summer time. The change in spring robs us of an hour of sleep on the night from Saturday to the last Sunday in March , which means it is light for an hour longer in the evening and dark for an hour longer in the morning will stay. When we switch to winter time, however, we are allowed to sleep an hour longer at the end of October.
However, changing the clocks between two and three o'clock in the morning and the resulting shift in daily rhythms poses a small challenge for many people. Almost one in four people report health problems as a result of the time change. During this time, many people suffer from sleep disorders, difficulty falling asleep, concentration problems or negative moods and feel tired and weak for up to two weeks. And why exactly is it that we have trouble sleeping after a time change?
2. Our internal clock
The fact that the change throws us off track has to do with our natural biorhythm. Like all living beings, we humans have an internal clock that controls our sleep-wake rhythm and ensures that we tire in the evening and wake up again in the morning. This so-called circadian rhythm is also influenced by external factors. Light and darkness, for example, serve as an external stimulus that has a strong influence on the biochemical processes in our body and adapts our sleep and waking phases to the natural daily routine. Changing to a different time not only leads to an hour more or less sleep, but also acts like a kind of mini jet lag - because the body needs time to adapt to the new conditions.
The widespread difficulties with falling asleep are mainly caused by disruptions in our hormonal balance. In the evening, when it gets dark, our body produces more of the sleep hormone melatonin, which makes us tired and helps us to wind down and fall asleep. Over the course of the night, the melatonin level drops again and the body releases more cortisol in order to wake up in the morning. Because the change and adjustment of this hormone production does not work quickly, we usually feel very tired in the morning in the first few days after the time change and, in turn, feel fitter for much longer in the evening. As a rule, our bodies have adapted to the new circumstances after a few days. However, some people continue to suffer from fatigue, problems falling asleep or depressive moods for up to two weeks and are less productive due to the disturbed sleep.
So that you can sleep well and get up refreshed despite the time change, here are five tips that you can use to help your body adapt to summer or winter time.
3. Five sleep tips for the time change
#1 Adjust sleep time early
A regular sleep rhythm promotes healthy sleep. Since we get used to sleeping and waking times, it can be helpful to adjust our own sleeping habits in the days before the time change.
When switching to winter time you can try staying awake a little longer in the days before the change to prepare for the extra hour.
When switching to summer time, however, it is advisable to go to bed a little earlier. It's best to start by going to bed a quarter of an hour earlier, then half an hour and finally three quarters of an hour earlier. In this way, you can adjust to the missing hour little by little and gently prepare your body for the new sleep time.
#2 Daylight and exercise in the fresh air
Daylight not only controls the sleep-wake rhythm, but also ensures increased production of the “happiness hormone” Serotonin, which is converted into the sleep hormone melatonin in our brain as darkness increases. Therefore, try to spend as much time outside as possible, for example by taking long walks or doing sports. Exercising in the fresh air is not only beneficial for your hormonal balance, it also gets your circulation going, keeps you healthy and helps you fall asleep in the evening.
#3 Take meals earlier
Severe digestive processes can make it difficult to fall asleep and disrupt sleep. To prevent problems falling asleep, it can help to gradually move your evening meal backward (change to winter time) or forward (change to summer time) in the week before the time change. Plan your last meal of the day at best 3 to 4 hours before going to bed and avoid heavy, fatty foods as well as drinks containing caffeine or high sugar. You can find more tips for a sleep-promoting diet here.
#4 Skip the afternoon nap
A short nap or Power Nap at midday are, under normal circumstances, good ways to compensate for daytime tiredness or an acute lack of sleep and to recharge your batteries. But be careful! After a time change, it makes more sense to avoid daytime sleep in order to increase sleep pressure in the evening and prevent problems falling asleep or a lack of tiredness.
#5 Take time to adjust
Ultimately, our body simply needs some time to adapt its internal clock to the new external rhythm and the shift in the social time structure. Make the transition easier for yourself by not planning too much stress in the following days and not filling up your appointment calendar unnecessarily. And even if you can't fall asleep or stay asleep in the evening, you shouldn't try to sleep compulsively. This puts additional stress on your body, promotes the release of cortisol and keeps you awake for longer.
The time change disrupts our internal clock, which regulates the hormonal balance and controls our sleep-wake rhythm.
When we switch to winter time, the clock is turned back and we “gain” an hour at night. When we switch to daylight saving time, we “lose” an hour because the clock is set forward.
Prepare for the time change by changing your evening meals in the days beforehand and gradually going to bed earlier or later.
Spend plenty of time in daylight and fresh air to support hormone production and promote fatigue in the evening.
Avoid taking an afternoon nap so that the sleep pressure increases in the evening and you can fall asleep better
Give your body time to adapt and avoid unnecessary appointments, heavy strain and stress in the first few days.
Greetings and see you soon!