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Why the EU has vowed to stop changing the clocks twice a year

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Sarah Shaffi
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Should the UK make like the rest of Europe and scrap Daylight Savings Time? The pros and cons, explored…

Spring forward, fall back.

For years, that’s been the way many of us remember whether the clocks are going backwards or forwards, causing us to lose (boo) or gain (yay) an hour of precious sleep.

But we could soon see the end of daylight savings time, as the European Union has just voted to end the practice of adjusting clocks by an hour in the spring and autumn.

Countries that want to keep their summer time schedules will make their final ever clock change on the last Sunday in March 2021, while those who want to keep their standard time, also known as their winter time, will make the final adjustments to their clocks on the last Sunday in October 2021.

The end of Daylight Savings Time in the EU is approaching.

The law is currently in draft form, and there’s still work to be done to ensure that any permanent changes don’t disrupt and have a negative effect on trade.

The EU proposal was drafted after calls from European Union citizens for the change. In a consultation about the clock changes, 84% of the 4.6m responses were in favour of ending daylight savings. 

Of course, after Brexit (whenever that is) the UK won’t have to abide by this EU law, but remaining member states will now have to approve the law.

So what, apart from an hour’s gained or lost sleep, are the benefits and negatives of scrapping clock changes? We take a look.

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Pros for getting rid of daylight savings

Boosted health

A number of studies have found that the number of heart attacks increases in the week after the clocks change, perhaps due to disrupted sleep. Research by the University of Michigan’s Frankel Cardiovascular Centre found that there was a 24% jump in the number of heart attacks occurring on the Monday after the spring clock change compared to other Mondays throughout the year. The study also found that there was a 21 per cent drop in the number of heart attacks the Tuesday after the clocks go back in autumn, when we gain an hour’s sleep.

Improved safety

According to research carried out in New Zealand, the changing of clocks leads to more road accidents. The start of daylight savings time, found the study, “is associated with significantly higher rates of road accidents” - a 16% increase on the first day and a 12% increase on the second day. The AA has said it sees the “road safety arguments in favour of changing the clocks so that there is less light in the morning and more in the evening”.

Increased life satisfaction

Life satisfaction deteriorates the week after the clocks go forward in spring, a study of people in the UK and Germany found. Researchers attributed this to “the reduction in the time endowment and the process of adjusting to the disruption in circadian rhythms”. There was no change noted after the clocks went back in autumn, when people gained an extra hour. Facebook backed this up with an analysis of the feelings used by Americans on their status updates in the week after the clocks went forward. It found “tired” was one of the most-used feelings, with a 25% increase in the usage on the Monday, when people returned to work.

Doesn’t impact energy efficiency

Daylight savings time was initially thought to lead to energy savings, as more hours of daylight meant we wouldn’t need to switch our lights on until much later. But modern life means there’s now no real energy saving done through changing the clocks - lights, laptops and more are in use all year round. In fact, a study in Indiana found that “DST increases residential electricity demand”, so getting rid of daylight savings wouldn’t make a difference to energy consumption.

Currently clocks go forward in the spring and back in the autumn by an hour

Cons to getting rid of daylight savings

Crime rates could potentially rise

A 2013 study found that after the clocks moved forward in spring, meaning longer daylight hours, there was a 7% decrease in robberies. The study estimated that the 2007 extension of daylight savings, when the US extended the period of daylight savings from March to November (as opposed to April to October), the result was “$59 million in annual social cost savings from avoided robberies”.

DST is incredibly popular

Daylight savings time is currently popular with people in the UK. A YouGov poll in 2017 found that 50% of people think we should keep changing our clocks, while just 38% want to see it scrapped. Younger people are more in favour of daylight savings than older people, while those in Scotland are most enthusiastic about continuing to change the clocks.

A darker Scotland

Speaking of Scotland, scrapping the changing of the clocks would result in more hours of darkness in the country, due its northerly position. Opponents in Scotland say the increase in the number of hours in darkness will have an effect on rural communities and schoolchildren, who will be going to school in the dark.

Longer evenings in summer

Who doesn’t love basking in the evening sunshine during the summer months? Longer days due to daylight savings means we get more hours of natural light, which is good for our health (more natural Vitamin D!), and our social life.

Images: Unsplash / Getty

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