Daylight saving time: When do the clocks go back in Germany?

DPA/The Local
DPA/The Local - [email protected]
Daylight saving time: When do the clocks go back in Germany?
A compilation of town hall clocks from around Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa

It's that time of year again: soon clocks around Germany will be set back an hour. When does the change occur, and how do Germans feel about the shift?


Twice a year, the clock in Germany is changed between summer time (Sommerzeit) and winter time (Winterzeit). However, the dates for the time shift (Zeitverscheibung) differ from year to year.

When will the time change to winter time in 2023?

Germany introduced the switch between summer and winter time in 1980 after the global oil crisis. The idea was that it would save energy by making the most of sunlight hours.

However, the switch continues to be unpopular, and eliminating it altogether has been a source of constant debate for decades. 

READ ALSO: When will Germany ditch the seasonal clock changes?

The changeover to winter time always takes place on the last Sunday in October. In 2023, the clocks will therefore shift from summer to winter time on October 29th. The changeover to daylight saving time took place on March 26th, 2023 - the last Sunday in March.

And unless you have an old-fashioned clock on the wall, whose arms you’ll need to shift manually, all of your devices will automatically update to the new time.

In Germany, the signal for the automatic time change comes from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Braunschweig.


The experts at the authority ensure that radio-controlled clocks, station clocks and many industrial clocks are supplied with the signal via a long-wave transmitter called DCF77, located in Mainflingen in Hesse.

Is the clock set forward or backwards?

When winter comes, it gets colder outside and we retreat for longer into our four walls. And so the clock is also turned back for winter time - from 3am. to 2am. This means that it gets light earlier in the morning - but darker earlier in the evening.

Some people might be drinking more coffee for a few days following the time change. Photo: Congerdesign/Pixabay

In summer, the weather is usually nicer and we would much rather spend our time outside. So in the warmer months, we also set the clock one hour ahead: from 2am to 3am. This means that it is light longer in the evening in Germany and people can be out and about for a longer time.

If you struggle to remember which way the clocks go, there's a helpful mnemonic for American English speakers: spring forwards and fall backwards. 

Time change: similar to jetlag

"Many people manage the time change without any problems," sleep physician Kneginja Richter, chief physician of the Curamed Day Clinic Nuremberg and professor at the Nuremberg University of Technology, told DPA. 

But some people do feel the change. "The clock was invented to structure our activities," said Richter.

Yet if we were to follow our sleep-wake rhythm - completely free of clock times - it would be longer - or shorter -  than 24 hours for many people.


Those who tend to sleep poorly may find it harder to cope with the time change, with age playing a major role.

"From the age of 55, the pineal gland in the brain releases less melatonin, the sleep hormone," added Richter. This can be a risk factor for sleep disorders - and thus make you more sensitive to the time change.

How to adjust to the change

Our expectations can also influence how well we cope with the change. After all, the time change doesn't come out of nowhere - it creeps into our consciousness days before.

"And if we know we're sensitive to it, we may programme ourselves to think, 'oh, I'm going to sleep badly this week too'," said Richter. This thought can stress us out so much that we find it even more difficult to rest.

Richter also advised slightly adjusting your sleep rhythm by a few minutes each day before the time change comes into effect.

Those who missed this opportunity can rely on another tip from the sleep physician: "Light, light, light. Because the more light we get during the day, the more energy we feel and the easier it is to cope with problems like the time change."

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in October 2023


What do people in Germany think about the clock changes?

Germans might take these tips to heart, but in Germany public opinion is resoundingly in favour of scrapping the hour change.

A opinion poll by YouGov in 2021 found 71 percent of Germans are in favour of abolishing the practice of changing the clocks in spring and autumn.

In a survey published by the health insurance company DAK-Gesundheit, 78 percent were in favour of abolishing the time change, and 30 percent of respondents said they had experienced health or psychological problems after the clocks changed.

Meanwhile, a KKH survey provided a similar picture. A total of 24 percent said they were irritable or tired in the days after the time change, and 26 percent had trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also