When Do The Clocks Go Forward & Why?

10 min read

Last Modified 29 September 2021 First Added 18 September 2020

By Gemma Curtis

It’s that time of year where we swap from Daylight Savings Time (DST) to British Summer Time (BST). And even though it was established in 1916, many people still question exactly why do the clocks go forward? Take a look at our guide below for why it happens and what to expect, including things to look forward to and how to keep a good sleeping pattern. But first, let’s answer the all-important questions.

When do the clocks go forward?

Sunday, 28th March 2021.

What time do the clocks go forward?

At 01:00 on Sunday morning, 28th March 2021.

Do we lose an hour of sleep?

When the clocks go forward, we ‘lose’ an hour of sleep because we have skipped an hour of time. But, despite the change in sleep pattern and not knowing what time it is for at least a day, there are some good things to come out of this practice. We look at six things that will benefit you from daylight saving time.

What’s good about the clocks going forward?

While it may be a bit of a pain working out when and why the clocks change, there are reasons. Take a look at our list below of the some the best reasons as to why the clocks go forward:

1. It’s officially British Summer Time

Well, it might not always be sunny or hot. But when the clocks go forward, our time zone changes from GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) to BST (British Summer Time). Our country may not have the best reputation for summer, but at least we get to look forward to holidays and relaxation.

things to do when clocks go forward

2. It’s lighter for longer

One of the biggest benefits of ‘springing forward’ is that we have lighter evenings. Won’t it be lovely knowing you can leave work with enough daylight to spend some time outside when you get home? This means that we can get more out of our day.

A study highlighted in The Mirror, showed an increase in children’s physical activity during early evening when the clocks were moved forward. 23,000 children were observed from countries all over the world. They reported, ‘The scientists found children’s total daily activity levels were up to 20% higher on summer days when the sun set after 9 pm than on winter days when darkness fell before 5 pm.’

3. It’s good for your health

More daylight means more sunlight. Our body produces Vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight. This super vitamin has many important functions such as facilitating immune system function and regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. It is vital for having healthy teeth and bones and helps us remain healthy and fight diseases.

Without enough vitamin D, we can feel lethargic, weak and even depressed. Your body only needs 10 minutes of midday sun (without sunscreen) to produce enough for the day. However, it’s important not to stay in the sun too long without protection, as this can lead to sunburn. If it’s cloudy, top up your vitamin D by eating oily fish, mushrooms, milk and eggs.

Related: How To Get Out Of Bed When You Have SAD

4. You’ll naturally wake up

Waking up in the dark winter is hard. Not only because we don’t want to leave our cosy beds, but because our bodies don’t think it’s morning yet. Your circadian rhythm, or ‘body clock’, can be easily manipulated by natural light. Business Insider says this is because, ‘exposure to bright natural light via the sun tells your body that it’s daytime, which signals your brain to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm’. Waking up with the sun is much nicer than waking up with an alarm clock blaring!

women waking up after clocks go forward

5. There are fewer road traffic accidents

We can’t put this fact entirely down to the clocks going forward, but it certainly helps. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) says, ‘Road casualty rates increase with the arrival of darker evenings and worsening weather conditions. Every autumn when the clocks go back, and sunset occurs earlier in the day, road casualties rise’. So, with better visibility and road conditions, driving in the evening is much safer during British Summer Time.

6. It saves energy

With one extra hour of daylight in the evening, we use less energy for both heating and lighting our homes. We can also rely a lot more on solar energy, which is far less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels. On summer evenings, people tend to spend time outside of the house. Going for walks, relaxing in the garden or dining ‘al fresco’ are all great ways to utilise your time. It also means you’re less likely to be using electricity or gas inside the house.

What else is there to consider when the clocks go forward?

So the clocks are indeed about to go forward, which is somewhat of a double-edged sword. Sunday 29th March is the official start of British Summertime, which is a good thing, but also means that we lose an hour in bed, which is definitely a very bad thing. You might only be missing an hour of sleep, but it can have a negative effect on your body clock, and it can take up to a week to re-adjust and get back into your normal routine.

How to cope with the clocks going forward:

1. Prepare yourself a few days before

It’s an obvious piece of advice, but a few nights before the clocks are due to go forward, start going to bed a little earlier. Here is the advice of Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council: ‘Some people suffer with fatigue cognitive slowing, mood problems and slower reaction times when they miss out on sleep. Studies have shown an increase in heart attacks, traffic accidents and workplace injuries in the days following the shift to British Summer Time.

‘Start the Wednesday before: go to bed 10-15 minutes earlier each night and wake up 10-15 minutes earlier each morning. When Sunday arrives, you will already be adjusted. This is particularly helpful for those with young children.’

2. Sleep in on Sunday

Although The Sleep Council have given their advice on getting up earlier, don’t feel too bad about yourself if you need to sleep in for an hour (it is, after all, Sunday!). Be careful not to sleep in too long, however, as this could impact your body clock for the following day. For those who have children, sleeping in (otherwise known as a lie-in) is where you sleep until whatever time you want!

Alarm clock on the morning when clocks go forward

3. Compensate on the Sunday night

If you have lost an hour’s sleep on the Saturday night, then it might be a good idea to compensate and head to bed a little earlier on the Sunday night to make up for lost sleep. This may be particularly beneficial if you have to get up for work on Monday morning and want to feel refreshed.

Here are some tips on how to get out of bed in the morning when you don’t want to.

4. Change the time on clocks the night before

If you don’t change the time on your clocks until the morning, then you could risk thinking you still have that extra hour in bed, which could be a real problem if you have to be somewhere. Change them just before you go to bed, and make sure you change them all at once so you don’t miss any.

5. Have an afternoon nap

If you haven’t managed to get some extra sleep the night before and don’t fancy going to bed early on the Sunday night, then you could try getting forty winks on the Sunday afternoon with a power nap. However, don’t nap for too long or it could have a negative effect on your sleep, so don’t forget to set an alarm to wake you up.

Health and fitness expert Peta Bee gave us her top tips for napping.

6. Don’t worry if you can’t sleep

The change in your sleeping pattern, even just an hour’s difference, can throw your body clock off kilter for a few days, but don’t worry if you’re struggling to get to sleep or you could just make the problem worse. There are various things you can do to help you drift off – you could try eating cherries or these other sleep-inducing foods, or you could try one of these sleep remedies from around the world.

You could also check out our great infographic on how to get a better night’s sleep. Simply click the image below to have a look.

Sleep better when the clocks go forward graphic

7. Keep the light out of the bedroom

Sunlight will naturally wake you up and when the clocks go forward, the sun will rise earlier. While sunlight is a great, natural way to wake up, it won’t help you combat that rogue hour’s sleep. Invest in some blackout blinds and ensure all nooks and crannies around the blinds and curtains are blocked. It can be difficult to get up for work on a Monday morning at the best of times, so make sure you catch up on that lost hour.

8. Create a good sleeping environment

If you want to ensure you get a good night’s sleep on the Saturday night to fend off that dreaded early start, you’ll need to create an atmosphere conducive to sleep. Interior designer Joanna Thornhill recently explained how you can make your bedroom a relaxing retreat, whilst we also spoke to designer Ella Jade about you how you can use colour schemes to create a more relaxed atmosphere.

9. Keep your child awake longer on Saturday night

If you want to avoid your child waking up even earlier on the Sunday morning, then you could try tiring them out and keeping them awake a little longer on the Saturday night. If you don’t want to mess with their bedtime, you could just do what you can to tire them out during the day, which may help them to sleep for longer.

Baby asleep when the clocks go forward

10. Be prepared for disruptions to your child’s bedtime routine

When the clocks go forward  it will start to get lighter in the evenings, which can play havoc with your children’s bedtime routines. They may well not want to go to bed because it’s still light outside, so it’s important that you stick closely to the usual bedtime routine. This will help ensure they realise it is still bedtime, despite the sun still being up.

This won’t help with you losing an hour’s sleep, but it’s still an important consideration.

11. Make the most of your extra hour awake!

Obviously, getting a good night’s sleep is of huge benefit, but there’s also a lot to be said for making the most of the extra hour awake when the clocks go forward. Grab a healthy breakfast and maybe go out and get some exercise which will help you feel more alert and awake, and will help you get a better night’s sleep anyway. Tai Chi or yoga is a great way to start the day without being too strenuous, while exercise such as swimming or cycling has a reasonably low impact on your body, so won’t be too much of a shock first thing in the morning.

Do you have any tips on how to cope with losing an hour of sleep? Or do you prefer to get up and seize the day? Either way, let us know in the comments below.

Read more: Things You Might Not Know About the Clocks Going Back

Post updated: 06/03/2019

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