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Daylight Saving – A blessing or a curse?

Article by Prashant Sharma from Australia, published by NRI Herald 04 Oct 2021

Daylight Saving – A blessing or a curse?

It’s that time of the year again. The clocks moved 1 hour forward at 2 am on 3rd October 2021. A popular saying goes like, “Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.” The debate is over 100 years old. It is hard to believe that what started as a temporary measure during the First World War is still continued more than a century later. United Kingdom adopted daylight saving for the very first time in 1916 as a countermeasure to Germany’s move to save fuel during the First World War. Same was implemented for Australia in the same year. The practice was given up one year later and wasn’t repeated until the Second World War. It was reintroduced in 1942 to 1944. However, Western Australia decided to not follow it for 1943-44. India under the British rule observed daylight saving time from 1941 to 1945 but has never flirted with the idea ever since.

Tasmania was the first state in Australia to adopt daylight saving in 1967. The daylight saving association started lobbying in 1968 in NSW. Following which, daylight saving was introduced in NSW, VIC& QLD in 1971 first time since Second World War. Due to mixed reaction from people a referendum was conducted in 1976. There were more than double the votes in favour than against. Queensland finally stopped daylight saving in 1992 after a separate referendum.

At present more than 70 countries use daylight saving every 6 months, most of them are in Europe or their past colonies. Various countries have given up the practice and the numbers have been dropping with Brazil being the latest to give it up in 2020.

What is daylight saving?

Daylight Saving Time or DST is a seasonal time change measure where clocks are set ahead of standard time during part of the year, usually by one hour, for Australia from 1st Sunday of October until 1st Sunday of April. As DST starts, the Sun rises and sets later, on the clock, than the day before.

Why daylight saving?

It is argued that daylight saving encourages people to get out more and make most of the nice weather after spring. Increased outdoor activity is a welcome break from sedentary lifestyle of modern life. The tourism industry benefits from brighter evenings a major argument is in favour of re-introducing the practice in Queensland as the state relies heavily on tourism.

During daylight saving months there is less requirement for the artificial light as for most of the waking hours daylight is available.

What is not working?

Things have drastically changed over one century, with countless electronic devices such as TVs, Computers, mobile phones and smart watches daylight saving hardly conserves any energy. While we have people binge watching a whole season of a TV series in one night conserving energy through saving natural light sounds childish.

The practice has been termed as a health hazard by America Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) which supports a switch to permanent standard time, explaining in the statement that standard time more closely aligns with the daily rhythms of the body’s internal clock.

“There is ample evidence of the negative, short-term consequences of the annual change to daylight saving time in the spring,” said AASM President Dr. Kannan Ramar. “Because the adoption of permanent standard time would be beneficial for public health and safety, the AASM will be advocating at the federal level for this legislative change.”

Changing the time, even if it is only by one hour, disrupts our body clocks or circadian rhythm. Impact varies from little fatigue and inconvenience in some people to more serious consequences in others. Studies link the lack of sleep at the start of DST to car accidents, workplace injuries, suicide, and miscarriages. On the other hand early evening darkness with very short days after the end of the DST period is linked to depression.

It is hard to determine the economic cost of the collective tiredness caused by DST, but studies have found a decrease in productivity after the spring transition, this includes extra cost in building DST support into computer systems and keeping them maintained, as well as manually changing clocks. An interesting fact is that there are almost 600 clocks in Buckingham Palace which need estimated 40 hours to be manually reset twice a year at the start and end of DST.

What can be done?

I personally never felt the impact so strongly before having a child. It’s so difficult to manage the child’s routine which moves by one hour every six months. There is no way a child is going to understand the concept of daylight saving, same is with pets. To make the transition easier it is recommended to wake up a little earlier than usual in the week before springing forward. Healthy breakfast and morning walk can also help you adjust better. To help children and pets it is advisable to make slow transition in routine as early as one week before to bring it slowly in sync with new timings.

There is a need to reconsider this practice and have a fresh look based on changed circumstances due to massive shift in technology, lifestyle as well as demographic change due to major immigration influx. With so many mental health issues and people facing unprecedented issues with insomnia and depression do we really need to bring this upon them? To put things in perspective at the time the last referendum was conducted; Malcom Fraser was still the PM of Australia, Gerald Ford was still the President of USA, Indira Gandhi was still ruling India through Emergency Powers, USSR was still united and Berline wall still intact.

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