How Our Bodies Are Affected by Losing an Hour’s Sleep

At 1am on Easter Sunday (March 27th) the clocks in the UK will ‘spring’ forward an hour as we enter daylight saving time once again, and hopefully look forward to longer days and warmer weather.

While this is all well and good, it means that we unfortunately have to get up an hour earlier!

And although it is only an hour, being torn out of your perfect sleep routine can really mess with your body in a number of ways.


Physical effects

Having your sleep pattern dragged forward by an hour forces your mind and body to realign itself, which (depending on the individual) can take between a couple of days and a couple of weeks, and leaves you feeling tired throughout the day.

This groggy feeling can mean a drop in your performance at work, and just a general malaise.

Another one of the effects of losing an hour that you might not know is that it can make you feel cold.

As strange as this may be, it’s because the body naturally cools down while you sleep. You can read more about temperature regulation during sleep here.

The lack of sleep can also increase your resistance to insulin, which increases your risk of both diabetes and obesity.

And while these effects are bad enough, there’s an even more deadly consequence that has been unearthed.

Evidence has been found that there is an increase (albeit a small one) in fatal road accidents on the Monday after the clocks go forward.

While it may seem strange that just one hour can make such a difference to your body, it’s worth bearing in mind that we all lack in sleep quite considerably anyway.


What you can do

So what can you do to get over the change? So surely the answer is to just stay in bed an extra hour on Sunday? Unfortunately not.

Staying in bed longer than usual will only make it harder to sleep when you go to bed that night, and further disrupt your circadian rhythm.

  • One of the most important things is showing your body that it’s daytime, and time to be awake, and one the best ways to do this is through light.

If you just stay hidden away in your room all day, unsurprisingly, your brain will think it’s night time.

Instead, as tough as it may be, try and get outside and go for a walk first thing. Even if it isn’t very far, the exposure to light will bring your circadian rhythm back into check.

  • There is also a great range of sleep tracking apps which can help you measure your movement and temperature while you sleep.

These apps can be great for figuring out when you should be going to sleep and when you should be waking up, and some can even work as alarm clocks to wake you up at the optimum time.

As great as these apps are, it’s important not to live and die by them, so if you find yourself spending more time worrying that you aren’t sleeping when your phone tells you to, it’s probably best to ditch it.

  • It’s also important not to try and counteract the change by going to bed earlier than you normally would.

This will only lead to more time that you’re lying awake in bed, which will just get your body used to the idea that the bed is a place for tossing and turning rather than sleeping.

This can be hampered further if you lie in bed browsing your phone or tablet as the melatonin from the screen will stimulate your brain.


For information on the clocks going forward, why they do so, and some interesting history behind daylight savings time, check out this article from the Telegraph.