Spring Clock Change and Teenage Sleep

For many, the upcoming Spring clock change on Sunday March 26th brings forth positive, optimistic feelings of fresh spring vibes! Unfortunately, less so for teens- where early mornings already pose a struggle, British Summer Time results in what feel like extremely early wake ups. 7 in the morning can feel like 5am to a teenager with a delayed body clock. The good news is we need not despair! Why not try suggesting some of the following advice to help ease into British Summer Time…

Light exposure is the biggest factor in shifting our circadian rhythm (our internal 24 hour clock that helps us sleep and wake). To adapt to a time change, try to limit light exposure an hour before bedtime. In the morning, aim for 30 minutes of bright light exposure- the best way to achieve this is getting outside. Sufficient bright light exposure in the morning will help prepare the body for sleep in the evening by boosting melatonin production. The usual suspects will also help your body adjust to the clock change: regular exercise (ideally not 2 hours before bed), regular mealtimes, repeated pre-bed wind down routine, dimming the lights in the evening and avoiding screens and alerting activities for an hour before bed.

More than usual, it’s a good idea to aim to wake up around the same time every morning including weekends. The temptation when sleep is disrupted is to compensate with weekend lie ins. However, this can lead to further sleep disruption and misalignment of the body clock, resulting in greater challenges to waking on time for school on weekday mornings. Perhaps you might like to plan a special treat for the weekend after the clock change, to reward a Saturday or Sunday earlier wake up. Full English anyone?! Speaking of food, aiming to eat meals around the same time each day will also re-enforce the body clock and as such, enhance the chance of better sleep.

If you or your teen would like to gradually adjust to the upcoming clock change, 3 days in advance, go to bed 15 minutes earlier and set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. Repeat this each night, so that on the 4th evening, your body is already running to the correct time. For some, this won’t be necessary, and you will prefer to simply set your alarm clock to the new time.

However this clock change goes for you, remember, there is always a way to improve sleep. Don’t suffer without hope.

About the Author

Written by Tabitha Moynagh, Sleep Consultant at Hunrosa Sleep Wise. A member of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, British Sleep Society and British Paediatric Sleep Society.