How to adjust to the end of daylight saving time

Daylight saving time ends this weekend, which not only signals shorter days but, for many, also disrupted sleeping patterns. Here’s how to adjust to the time change.

As the sun sets on another daylight saving season in Australia, we bid farewell to those cherished extra hours of sunlight.

While summer evenings filled with opportunities for outdoor activities and leisure sees the practice remain popular, the end of daylight saving brings its own set of challenges.

Monash Health director of Sleep Research Professor Garun Hamilton says the transition can disrupt our sleep schedules, impacting our daytime functioning.

“There is evidence of sleep disruption at either end — when we’re going into or out of daylight saving,” Prof Hamilton says.

How does daylight saving time work?

Most, but not all, Australian states and territories observe daylight saving time.

At 2am on the first Sunday in October, clocks in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria move forward to 3am.

Then, at 3am on the first Sunday of the following April (April 7 this year), clocks are turned back one hour to 2am.

Daylight saving is not observed in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Why do we have daylight saving time?

Daylight saving is observed by over 40 per cent of the world’s population and allows people to maximise use of sunlight hours in spring and summer.

When daylight saving was first introduced, the idea was that it would help save on energy consumption as there would be less need for artificial lighting; and, having more daylight in the evening may also encourage physical activity.

How does daylight saving time impact sleep?

The disruption in sleep time can interfere with our circadian rhythm — the 24-hour cycle that regulates sleep and other functions such as appetite and mood — sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo says.

“Delaying or bringing forward the time we go to bed and wake up throws out our circadian rhythm, including the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin and awakening hormone cortisol,” Olivia explains.

“(The circadian rhythm) doesn’t operate on clock time, but a 24-hour time dictated by light or dark patterns.”

Research suggests sleep can be impacted for up to a week following the change of clocks.

Prof Hamilton says sleep is affected differently depending on whether we’re going into or coming out of daylight saving.

“The bigger issue is when we go into daylight saving in the spring, because when the clocks go forward an hour, essentially for that first night and maybe a few nights afterwards, we tend to get a bit less sleep,” Prof Hamilton says.

But if you thought you were getting extra snooze time when the clocks turn back an hour you may be disappointed.

While in theory it might work, research shows only a small number of people actually get the extra hour of shut-eye they might have hoped for.

How to adjust to daylight saving transition

To minimise the sleep disruption caused by daylight saving transition, Prof Hamilton recommends gradually adjusting your bedtime in the days leading into the clock change.

Olivia says adopting calming practices before bedtime can also assist with the transition.

“I recommend having a shower, blocking out blue light, or listening to a guided meditation,” she says.

Before daylight saving ends

“If you can stay up half an hour later than normal, and get up half an hour later, and (then) do that for a night or two before completely resynchronising,” Prof Hamilton suggests.

“Usually, it only takes a couple of days and you should easily get back to your normal wake- and bedtime.”

Before daylight saving starts

For transitioning into daylight saving in spring, Prof Hamilton recommends gradually going to bed a bit earlier and waking a bit earlier over three to four days ahead of the change.

“If you try to do it all at once in spring, it’s much harder,” he says.

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Written by Claire Burke