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Spring forward: Your guide to the 2024 British Summer Time shift

Spring forward: Your guide to the 2024 British Summer Time shift

Monday 25 March 2024

As we gear up to spring forward in 2024, it's fascinating how the clock change can throw our inner timekeeping – our circadian rhythms – for a loop. This built-in biological clock of ours is fine-tuned to the day's natural light and dark cycle, not quite ready to leap an entire hour overnight as dictated by the clock change. It's a tradition that dates back to the Time Act of 1916, aimed at maximising daylight use, yet it can take our bodies days to catch up.

This misalignment, when our body clocks lag behind the new official time – shifting from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) to British Summer Time (BST) – can really take a toll. It affects everything from our focus and memory to our creative spark, making us feel all the more sluggish as sleep deprivation sets in.

But, let's not overlook the brighter side of this annual ritual. Adjusting our clocks brings us longer evenings to enjoy. Plus, the extra dose of sunlight isn't just good for the soul; it's essential for our bodies, too, boosting Vitamin D levels that are key for everything from bone health to keeping our spirits high.

Your strategy for seamlessly shifting into British Summer Time

We've put together a simple, yet effective three-day plan aimed at getting your body clock and meal times gently realigned with British Summer Time, making the transition as seamless as possible.

Friday (Before the Last Sunday in March)

Kick things off on Friday by soaking up some early morning sunshine. It's a great way to signal to your body that it's time to start shifting gears. Get active – maybe take a longer walk than usual with your dog, spend some time gardening, or finally get around to those chores you've been putting off. Just try to keep it low-key as bedtime approaches to avoid sleep disruptions. Cutting out caffeine for the day can also help you feel ready to hit the hay a bit earlier, setting the stage for the hour change as we edge closer to British Summer Time.

Saturday (The Day Before the Clocks Change)

Welcome Saturday with a relaxed stroll in the morning light and treat yourself to a nice caffeine-free breakfast. Remember, both daylight and food play their parts in resetting our internal clocks. Slightly adjust your lunch and dinner times to be earlier, aiming to tuck in for the night an hour sooner than the adjusted Friday schedule. Keep your evening calm with softer lighting and less screen time, maybe even drawing a warm bath about 45 minutes before bed to help you unwind.

Sunday - post clock change

Thanks to your preparations on Friday and Saturday, you'll wake up on Sunday – the day we officially change the clocks – feeling refreshed and without missing a wink of sleep. Your eating schedule will naturally fall into place, and there's no need to fret over misjudging your bedtime since you'll be perfectly synced up with British Summer Time. You're now ready to jump into the new week feeling energised and in harmony with the rhythm of summer time.

Frequently asked questions about the spring 2024 clock change

Do clocks go forward or back in March?

In March, the clocks go forward by one hour. This action, part of the Daylight Saving Time protocol, heralds the beginning of British Summer Time. It's a practice designed to extend daylight in the evenings during the spring and summer months, enabling people to make the most of the longer days.

Do we gain or lose an hour in March?

In March, when the clocks spring forward, we lose an hour of sleep overnight. This change shifts an hour of natural daylight from the morning to the evening, providing extra daylight after work and school hours, which is particularly appreciated during the spring and summer.

Why do the clocks go back at 2am and not 12?

The clocks change at 2am, rather than at midnight, as this timing is thought to cause the least disruption to most people's lives. By changing the time during what is typically a low activity period, there's minimal impact on businesses and reduces the chance of confusion during the changing of the clocks. This practice is observed not just in the UK but also in other regions that observe daylight saving time, including Europe and North America.

Is the UK going to stop changing the clocks?

There have been discussions and proposals concerning the abolishment of the time change or making daylight saving time permanent in the UK. However, no definitive action has been taken to end the seasonal time changes. The practice continues to be a topic of debate, weighing the benefits of extra daylight during summer evenings against the drawbacks of adjusting the clocks twice a year.

Is it lighter in the morning when the clocks change?

When the clocks go forward in March, it becomes darker in the morning than it was before the change. This is because moving the clocks forward one hour from standard time shifts an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, making it lighter in the evenings but temporarily darker in the mornings until the days lengthen further into spring.

Does every country change their clocks?

Not every country changes their clocks for daylight saving time. The practice is mostly adopted in countries in Europe and North America, among others, but many countries around the world do not observe daylight saving time. The decision to adopt daylight saving time depends on the country's proximity to the equator, as the length of daylight varies less throughout the year in equatorial regions, making the practice less beneficial.

Does changing the clocks affect our health?

Yes, changing the clocks can have an impact on health. The shift to British Summer Time in March involves moving the clocks forward by one hour, which can disrupt sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. This disruption can lead to short-term consequences such as increased irritability, sleep disturbances, and a decrease in overall mood. Some people may experience a more pronounced impact, particularly those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as their bodies adjust to the change in daylight hours. However, the longer evenings and increased exposure to daylight can have a positive effect on mental health over time, potentially improving mood and energy levels as the body adjusts to the new schedule.


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