It’s almost time for the clocks to go forward. It’s what we like to call ‘Daylight Saving Time’. It isn’t really. It’s not like it actually saves any daylight to redistribute it later when it might be useful – like when the pubs roll out – now that would be cool. Come to think of it though that is kind of what renewable energy achieves though…
No, Daylight saving Time (DST), or British Summer Time (BST) as it is also known – is merely a shift of the clock by plus one hour in spring. It makes the daylight hours a little more convenient for those travelling to school and work along with another theory that it saves energy on lighting. It does also mean that you’ll be be able to come and potter in your storage unit straight after work and – probably – be home in time for tea in daylight.
This year the hours’ advance is happening this Sunday (tomorrow) – the weekend of 27th/28th March. At 2am in the morning you’ll need to remember to put your clocks forward by one hour. Actually you can do it when you go to bed, you don’t really have to set an alarm to do it in the middle of the night. And you’ve probably guessed. Putting the clock an hour forward means you will lose an hours’ sleep. But it’ll also get dark at 7pm, not 6.
So how, and why, did all this moving clocks backwards and forwards nonsense begin…?
Daylight saving is not a new phenomenon. It was first suggested in 1895, by an antipodean called George Hudson. The UK only adopted the practice in the First World War – to save Coal as energy for the war effort. We dabbled with different systems – including adding two hours in summer and keeping on one hour year round. The current system was settled on in 1972.
As with everything, there are good side and bad sides – and they depend on how your society is organised – industrialised nations use the hours on the clock, whilst others tend to work to the available daylight. With the exception of Agriculture and associated sectors, in the UK we mostly go to work and return home within ‘office hours’. So what are the advantages and disadvantages and why are some people suggesting we should stay on British Summer Time all year long?
Fitter, Healthier, Active People – When it is light, we’re more active, which means that we’re generally fitter and healthier. So sticking with daylight saving hours in winter should mean there’s a few more minutes of light for us to get out, about and active.
Fewer Accidents – accident rates statistically increase during darkness hours. So by keeping the clocks at BST in winter, you’re reducing the risk of accidents happening. That said, there’s only so much daylight, so there is some chance you might just be moving the risk to the other end of the day.
Business Efficiency – If we stayed on British Summer Time during winter, we’d be in line with the rest of Europe’s business clock. So when we started work, so would they, which means that you wouldn’t be losing two hours (1 at each end of the day) where you could be doing business with your European counterparts.
Crime Rates – It’s another obvious benefit really, but darkness is the criminal’s friend. It’s easier to slink around in doorways and hide in dark alleys. Crime rates generally fall during the lighter months of the year.
Tourism & Recreation – If lighter evenings provide the mechanism for activity and recreation, then the tourism industry benefits financially from the greater demand.
Energy Use – the reason Daylight Saving started in the first place was to save coal. If we’re doing more in darkness, then we’ll use more energy to light the way. It’s debatable whether keeping British Summer Time will save more energy – as it may just push usage to a different part of the day.
Body clock adjustment- We have to recondition our body clocks every spring/autumn by an hour. That takes some getting used to for lots of people – often up to two weeks. There are no statistics on how long it takes people to adjust, but it stands to reason there will be lost hours and an impact on their productivity – in work and business.
Energy saving – Lighter evenings means darker mornings, so as we’ve mentioned, any energy saved or a lower risk of accidents at one end of the day might meanie’s just pushed to the other.
Sunlight hours – Keeping BST will means that the mornings will stay dark longer. That’s not great for key workers such as dustmen, postmen, delivery drivers, construction and the agricultural sector. Likewise, children walking to school in the dark in the mornings might be put at greater risk.
Seasonal Affective Disorder – or S.A.D. is linked to lack of exposure to sunlight, which in turn increases production of Vitamin D, which helps with well-being. If fewer of us are out in what little sunlight there is during winter, then we might all feel a little less jolly.
So what’s your preference? Maybe we should ask you after the clocks have moved on Sunday – and you’ve lost that hours’ sleep. Whichever, we hope the change doesn’t affect your body clock too much.