On October 25th, the vast majority of Brits will go to bed with a smile on their faces. At 2am, on a Sunday no less, the clocks go back an hour and we all convince ourselves that we’ve been granted an extra sixty minutes of sleep. It won’t be quite so much fun having to spend Sunday afternoon trying to adjust to this weird (actually, non-existent) time delay, however – especially when it starts to get dark an hour earlier than usual. On the whole, it’s fair to say that most people have mixed feelings about daylight savings time.
This could be because many of them don’t fully understand it – despite being just under a century old, daylight savings time is still deeply confusing for most. Whilst it’s easy to get to grips with the literal and practical change of a clock, it’s a little harder to comprehend the fact that time is completely arbitrary. We roll our clocks forward or back as instructed, and we feel like the action has had a direct effect on the day. In reality, the amount of time in a day stays exactly the same, but our relationship to it changes.
It’s common for people to grumble at ‘gaining’ an hour in the summertime and ‘losing’ one at its end, but this just isn’t the case. The only change that’s made is the one that we implement ourselves, the one that says we’ll make a collective agreement, as a nation, to temporarily change the numbers on our clock faces. Whilst the experts at Rose Calendars are all quick to agree that brighter summer evenings would be sorely missed, we’re also well aware of the fact that daylight savings time can be a bit of a nuisance. The question is, do the benefits of daylight savings time outweigh the negatives?
Well, first things first – daylight savings time is primarily designed to allow nations to make the most out of natural sunlight. During the winter months, when both the mornings and the early evenings are dark, the system is temporarily abandoned. There are usually only two clock changes required, one at the beginning of summer and one at the end. This doesn’t, however, stop millions of people forgetting the dates and waking up an hour too early or too late for work, meetings and appointments. It’s hard to argue with the notion that daylight savings time can be a little difficult especially for deep sleepers.
It was invented in 1895 by a New Zealand entomologist called George Vernon Hudson, but it wasn’t until the outbreak of World War One that the system began to grow in popularity. In 1916, Germany and its allies implemented daylight savings time in a bid to conserve coal. It wasn’t long before Britain, Russia and the United States followed suit – with a sixty minute hop forward and back again at the end of summer, these nations made huge cutbacks in their wartime fuel consumption. During the 1970s, daylight savings time allowed countries like Canada and the US to survive a global energy crisis.
It’s a cold, hard fact that daylight savings time was initially an economic decision. There are many who would argue that it continues to be nothing but an economic decision, but there are also plenty of experts who argue that the system has become integral to our physical and mental wellbeing. Despite the fact that the total amount of daylight in a given day stays the same, studies have shown that indoor activities like watching television or playing on video games are substantially reduced during daylight savings time. These are replaced with things like jogging, walking and activities making the most of the daylight.
It’s hard to argue with the claim that increased exposure to natural light is a positive development. As anybody who works a nine to five job will know, there’s something wonderfully energising and uplifting about being able to come home from work and still sit out in the garden, take the dog for a long walk or just watch the sun set. As human beings, we rely on sunlight for our physical and mental health – we simply thrive in sunlight.
Yet, the total amount of daylight never changes. You could go to bed earlier and wake up earlier – you’d be exposed to more natural light as a result. In fact, there are just as many medical experts who believe that daylight savings time can be great strain on the body. It isn’t usually possible to physically prepare for the implementation or halt of daylight savings time, so twice a year our bodies are forced to adjust to a significantly shortened or lengthened sleeping pattern. This can be a lot more difficult for some than for others.
It also doesn’t make much sense these days to argue that daylight savings time conserves energy. Whilst this might have been true during wartime years, when fuel was the most valuable substance a nation had, it doesn’t necessarily apply to the here and now. A typical user will use notably less energy during evening hours on a daylight savings time system, but they will use more during the darker mornings.
The debate surrounding the usefulness of daylight savings time continues to rage on, with both its detractors and champions seemingly stuck in a stalemate. Over the last decade or so, however, more and more nations have abandoned the system in favour of a more flexible structure. In a single year, there are multiple political proposals advocating the abolishment of daylight savings time in the UK, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll one day have a direct effect on the way that we live and enjoy the summer months.