When the clocks change, how will teachers be affected?

On Sunday 27 October, the clocks will move back an hour. But what does this mean for teacher's sleep?

Grainne Hallahan

Experts warn about a lack of sleep

You know term one is coming to an end when the clocks go back as British Summer Time ends – and this year it's happening on Sunday 27 October. Just as you are returning to a normal sleep pattern, someone whips the bedspread out from underneath you, and 7am is suddenly 6am. For some, that will mean an extra hour in bed, for those with children, it likely means a very early wake up call. 

Sleep, and the lack of it, is already challenging for many people who work in schools. When the Education Support Partnership surveyed 1,502 teachers for its Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018, 56 per cent reported symptoms of insomnia. Lack of sleep can cause (and be a symptom of) depression, anxiety, and other debilitating mental health conditions.

Unfortunately, the clock change is likely to make sleeping patterns even more disrupted. 

Quick read: Five signs that you're close to teacher burnout

Quick listen: The truth about mental health in schools

Want to know more? Put your mind at rest this summer

Dr Guy Meadows, co-founder and clinical director of the Sleep School, says teachers need to be extra careful when it comes to their sleep.

“Teachers have a very regular routine, and the human body loves regularity, specifically our internal body clock. There are 20,000 clock cells in the suprachiasmatic nucleus in your brain, and this is responsible for keeping every biological process on time.”

Clock change 2019

Meadows says that dysregulation can occur quite easily – for example, during the long summer break. However, this scenario becomes ever-more complicated when we add in the clock change for daylight saving time.

“Over a billion people are affected when we lose an hour after the clocks change – the morning after, we see a 22 per cent increase in heart attacks and an increase of over 20 per cent in traffic accidents,” Meadows explains.

These are extreme examples – what is more likely for teachers is a feeling of jetlag. This feeling is also likely when the clocks go back on 27 October, too.  But the things people do to right that feeling can actually make things worse.

Catching up on sleep

“These teachers who have disrupted their sleep patterns will start to worry and panic, and in desperation start trying sleep aids like podcasts or the television," says Meadows. "Then the next day, they start worrying about not sleeping, which puts tension on to the next night, and then it snowballs. They will then try and implement a big routine – and it puts sleep up on a pedestal. But sleep is a biological process you can’t control, and the harder you try to get it, the further away it goes.”

Sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley, author of How to Sleep Well and former chairman of the British Sleep Society, agrees that teachers should be careful about trying to "binge sleep" to compensate for lack of sleep during the week.

Most teachers will recover quite quickly from the clock change, but those with existing issues may find things more difficult. So, how do you know if you are already getting too little sleep? Watch the BBC's handy video below.

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Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan is Tes recruitment editor and senior content writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @heymrshallahan

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