The Clock Change Dilemma: Maximising Your Sleep Rhythm When the Clocks Go Back

The clocks go back one hour at 2am on the last Sunday (Saturday Night) in October. This moves us to Standard Time or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) if you live in the UK or Ireland. It generally makes it brighter in the morning, but means there’s less daylight in the evening. 

But how does the clocks changing affect us and our sleep? Yes, we gain an hour of sleep in the morning, but we have darker evenings and it can also leave people confused as to what time it is.

What is Daylight Saving Time?

In Ireland, the clocks went forward on the last Sunday of March (March 26, 2023) at 01:00 am, and will go back by an hour at 02:00 am on the last Sunday in October (October 29, 2023).

In Canada, Daylight Saving Time (DST) starts at 02:00 am on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday in November, while in Australia, the clocks go forward on the first Sunday in April and go back on the first Sunday in October. In America, Arizona and Hawaii don’t participate in Daylight Savings.

Standard Time is science based and Daylight Saving Time was made by the people for the purpose of giving more daylight to people in the evening and saving on energy costs. But it doesn’t actually give us more light. That’s not how physics works.

It was proposed to reduce energy costs by people spending more time outdoors and using less artificial lighting. But nowadays people spend most of their time indoors regardless. In the days of coal fires and tallow lamps, this may have been true, but not in this modern world.

Clocks Go Back

When Did Daylight Saving Time Begin?

Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the idea of Daylight Saving Time (DST), although he didn’t actually implement it. In 1784, he proposed the concept of adjusting the clocks to save on candle usage by making better use of natural daylight. He suggested that people should wake up earlier to make use of the morning sunlight.

Daylight Saving was proposed in 1907 by William Willett, who happens to be the great-great-grandfather of singer Chris Martin of the British rock band. He was considered the “father” of DST, as he campaigned to have it implemented. He was an avid golfer and thought the extra daylight would benefit his game.

DST was not widely adopted or implemented until many years later. The modern concept of DST was first proposed seriously by Sir George Hudson in New Zealand in the late 19th century, and it was later popularised and introduced in various countries to conserve energy during World War I. It was during the First World War the government put Daylight Saving into practice. It was intended both to increase productivity in the war industries and to help workers get home safely before dark.

The idea of DST continued to evolve, and its adoption varied by country and region. Today, many countries, including the United States, observe DST to make better use of daylight during the longer days of spring, summer, and early autumn.

How Do the Clocks Changing Impact Us?

Even a one-hour change in the clock can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms, especially when the clock “springs forward” for Daylight Saving. See my post on Daylight Saving.

The impact of the clocks changes impacts us differently depending on how far from the equator we live. The further North you live. The further North you live, the more you experience the impact. During the winter months, the mornings are much darker, which can make it more challenging for people to wake up and start their day in natural light. This may impact mood and productivity during the darker winter mornings.

Standard Time (Autumn), by definition, does not involve any time changes or shifts. Standard Time is often considered more stable and less disruptive in terms of daily routines and schedules, which some people view as a benefit. It is not typically associated with energy savings or extended daylight hours in the same way that DST is. Farmers are always up early anyway and the clock change messes up their schedule, not to mention the animals. Some argue that Standard Time better aligns with natural circadian rhythms, as it doesn’t artificially shift the time, potentially leading to better sleep patterns and overall health.

What You Can Do

If you know you’re sensitive to the clock change this Autumn, then it is best to ease your body into the time shift. Go to bed and get up 20 minutes later three days before the change. This way, your body clock will already be synced to the new time when it happens. The opposite is true for DST in the Spring.

Daylight Saving Time, jet lag and shift work are the 3 main culprits to disrupting your Circadian Rhythm by changes in our environment and schedules.

Two Important factors:

  • Circadian rhythms regulate our internal clock, and our sleep-wake patterns.
  • Exposure to bright light in the morning and darkness in the evening helps synchronise your sleep-wake cycle.


DST and Standard Time (ST) are topic of ongoing debate, and the actual impact of DST can vary from one region to another. Some people appreciate the extended daylight in the evenings during the summer months, while others may find the clock changes disruptive or less beneficial. The decision to observe DST or use Standard Time (ST) depends on various factors, including geographical location, the industry you are in, energy consumption patterns or indeed if you are a night owl or morning lark.

So, do you favour the clocks changing twice a year? Let me know your thoughts.