Twice a year, the United Kingdom goes through an utterly pointless ritual. The country is not alone, 70 other nations, also follow this ritual. In the small hours the last Sunday in October, we put the clocks back one hour. And, reverse the routine on the last Sunday of March. Fiddling with the clocks does not save time and makes a significant impact on society. So, here are three reasons to reconsider Daylight Saving Time (DST).
Reason 1: Changing the clocks is messy
The European Commission proposes to end seasonal changes by 2021. If ratified, member states will decide for themselves whether to opt-in. Here in the UK, there is as yet no sign of the UK Government making a response to the proposal. Even though the UK is likely to have left the European Union by then, the project will prompt a response from the UK Government.
I am old enough to remember when the UK decided not to change the clocks at all. From the Autumn of 1968, the clocks stayed on British Summer Time for an experimental period that ended in 1971. An hour was sliced from the mornings and returned to us at the end of that day. In the winter period, that is significant. It meant I went to school in the dark, but it also determined that it did not get dark in December until 5 pm. Effectively the summers stayed as they had always been; the main effect was to shift an hour of winter daylight from the morning to evening. I heartily approved of keeping the clock fixed through the year; it makes sense.
Back then, in the dark ages, the public made a mixed response. The further north one is, the more significant the impact. For example, in the far north, the Scottish Orkney Islands sunrise on the Winter Solstice is 09:05 and sunset is 15:16. I suspect that the UK Government will hesitate to conform to adopt the European proposal to dispense with seasonal clock changes for fear of provoking the Scotts independence claim.
It is an inescapable astronomical fact that the further north one is and the further south one is, seasonal clock changes gradually lessen their impact. The most significant effect in the Northern Hemisphere is between the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cancer; similarly for the Southern Hemisphere. For a full list of who does what and when click here.
Reason 2: Changing the clocks affects mental health
Shifting an hour of daylight may seem like a small matter. But, there is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that it makes a decisive impact on mental health. I am one of those for whom the shifting hour is likely to plunge me into a hearty bout of winter depression. At first, when the clocks change, nothing much happens to me. The only exception is that I can feel that I am suffering a mild form of jet-lag for a few days.
Then as Christmas approaches, I start to tumble out of control into my very own black hole. I show all the classic signs of depression, sleep disturbances, low mood, loss of emotional energy and worst of all, my self-talk becomes black and accusatory. Black accusatory self-talk erodes my self-worth, and I sink further into the hole. Before long, I can’t sleep at night, and can’t stay awake in the day.
Fortunately, I have harnessed several defence mechanisms. The first of these is an obvious choice. When the sun shines; get out and walk. The second line of defence concerns shining a very bright light into my ears. Yes, you read it right!
Research from the University of Oulu, Finland in 2007, suggested that when the ears receive trans-cranial light, the brain uses the light in the same way as when full-spectrum lighting enters the brain through the eyes. Published in 2018, researcher Antti Flyktman, submitted his doctoral dissertation that verified the original research and extended our understanding of the processes to include evidence that light shone through the skull, albeit in mice, provides beneficial stimulation. At a future date, it may be possible to subject our heads to light treatment and receive the benefits enjoyed by in-ear applications.
Based on the research, I purchased a “Valkee” light-pod. I place ear-pieces into my ears, in the same way as ear-pieces for audio, and apply a preset light treatment from the iPod-shaped unit. The procedure takes only twelve minutes.
Since I first started using the treatment, I have been less depressed during the winter months than the awful depression that I experienced before I used the remedy. There are many detractors about the use of light in this way, but I can say that I feel that I have had fewer symptoms than when I have not used it. There is no doubt in my mind that changing the clocks plays a part in the winter blues.
Reason 3: Changing the clocks increases road deaths
The most vociferous proponents of abolishing DST come from road safety organisations. Over the years, a substantial body of data demonstrates that fewer lives are lost in accidents when the evening is lighter than when the clocks go back each autumn.
When the evenings are lighter, there are fewer deaths caused by road traffic accidents. According to the British organisation, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), following the 1968-1971 UK experiment with all year round BST, roads were safer. Fewer deaths, (-11.32%) occurred in the two weeks following the change of clocks to BST and an increase of (+18.83%) deaths in the two weeks after the return to GMT.
More recent research suggests that all year round BST in the UK could save an estimated 30 lives.
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