In September 2018, a proposal was approved by the European Parliament to end seasonal time changes.
If it is approved by the EU Council, nations will need to choose if they will remain in permanent summertime (meaning their last clock change will happen in March 2021) or permanent wintertime (meaning their last clock change will happen in October 2021).
The bill was introduced by Finland, which is greatly impacted by Daylight Savings Time (DST). In the summer, they have 18.5 hours of daylight, but only 5.5 hours in the winter. Southern countries in the same time zone, such as Greece, have 14.5 hours in the summer and 9.3 hours in the winter.
The negative mental and physical health effects of the clock switch have been on the public conscious even prior to the proposal. We are creatures of habit, and changing our 24-hour cycle, even if just by one hour, can greatly impact our internal body clock.
Jumping forward, or back, an hour can also lead to sleep deprivation. This can change our mood, making us feel more distracted than normal. As a result, our personal and professional lives are often impacted.
Turning the clocks back in October might give us an extra hour of sleep, but it can damage our mental health in the process. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that has similar symptoms to depression, including sadness, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and withdrawal from social activities.
Symptoms of SAD generally begin in the late fall and resolve themselves by the spring, right around the time that we set our clocks. SAD can be influenced, or heightened, by both decreased exposure to sunlight and a decreased amount of time spent outside.
Our internal clocks also help regulate our immune systems, explaining, in part, why changing the clocks can impact our physical health significantly. One 2012 study found a 10% increase in heart attack risk in the days following both the March and October time change.
One less hour of sleep also influences work performance and can lead to a 5.7% increase in workplace injuries and 67.6% increase in sick leave. Inadequate sleep supposedly costs the UK economy £50 billion/year in lost productivity and illness.
In the spring and summer, traffic accidents increase during morning commutes, and school children often walk to their classes in the dark.
If the UK and Ireland move into the same time zone as mainland Europe, communication and trade with other nations will be easier. Economies will not be as affected by an overtired, distracted, or injured work force.
Switching to a year-round standard time will also give people a chance to balance their internal biological clocks permanently.
Changing to one year-round time zone will balance our internal clocks without the need to adjust twice a year. We won’t sacrifice our mental or physical health, nor our economic and societal health. The only question left is: when should our last time change be?
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