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Scientists Are Calling For Daylight Saving Time To Be Scrapped Due To Health Concerns

Scientists Are Calling For Daylight Saving Time To Be Scrapped Due To Health Concerns

Every year, on the final Sunday of October, Brits put their clocks back by one hour to beckon in winter's longer nights.

The switch to British Summer Time (also known as Daylight Saving Time) in March - and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in October - are annual rituals that have been in place since 1916.

DST means we have more hours of daylight for recreation in summer (pub garden rosé, anyone?) but was also put in place to reduce energy consumption and give farm workers an extra hour of sunlight in harvest season.

All of which sounds very logical, but in recent years, people ranging from scientists to politicians and medical practitioners have called for DST to be scrapped due to health concerns.

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The clocks going back on 25th October will beckon in the winter's longer nights (Credit: Unsplash)
The clocks going back on 25th October will beckon in the winter's longer nights (Credit: Unsplash)

DST has been shown to affect our health, both mental and physical, as our normal body rhythms adjust to the change in hours.

Studies suggest that winding the clocks back causes reductions in sleep - which can increase the chance of seasonal depression - along with the risk of cardiac issues, stroke, cortisol production, and even traffic accidents.

In March 2019, MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) voted overwhelmingly in favour of scrapping DST from 2021 onwards, at a whopping 410 votes to 192.

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The vote means that EU member states will each decide whether to remain in a permanent state of summer time, or a permanent state of winter time, from 2021.

DST gives us more hours of daylight for recreation in the summertime (Credit: Unsplash)
DST gives us more hours of daylight for recreation in the summertime (Credit: Unsplash)

Of course, with Britain having left the EU, it's unclear whether we'll be impacted by the vote - but it's not only politicians who are sceptical about DST.

Last month, Australian professor Paul Zimmet called Daylight Saving Time a "major scientific debate" with significant health risks.

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Speaking on radio show 3AW Breakfast, the Professor of Diabetes at Monash University said: "There is cognitive dysfunction in relation to the Daylight Saving and the change in timing to our normal body rhythms."

Professor Zimmer also talked about increased rates of car accidents and heart problems in connection with DST.

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"In terms of the scientific evidence, which we will want to stick with at the moment, there are more heart attacks just after Daylight Saving," he said.

DST has been shown to affect our health, both mental and physical, as our normal body rhythms are altered (Credit: Unsplash)
DST has been shown to affect our health, both mental and physical, as our normal body rhythms are altered (Credit: Unsplash)
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"More road accidents and then you've got workplace accidents, car accidents and their implications."

Zimmer's views on DST have made headlines, but can a change of one hour really bring about such a wide-ranging shift in behaviour?

The people behind health and wellbeing app Wellspace, designed to promote wellbeing in the workplace and beyond, believes so - and explained to Tyla that they would "advocate the phasing out or eventual removal of DST".

A spokesperson told Tyla: "Making our bodies wake up at different times can have big impacts on our overall wellbeing. Employers need to be aware of this because studies suggest accidents go up around DST and also the severity of those accidents goes up as well. There's also an increase in car accidents."

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Talking about the changes to our sleep cycle that occur around this time - which can have a knock-on effect on our mood - Wellspace's creators suggested sleep tracking as one solution.

Changing the clocks has been linked to sleep reduction and higher rates of cardiac issues, stroke, cortisol production, and vehicular accidents (Credit: Unsplash)
Changing the clocks has been linked to sleep reduction and higher rates of cardiac issues, stroke, cortisol production, and vehicular accidents (Credit: Unsplash)

"Sleep tracking is useful to determine how much sleep you're actually getting and if you need to get some more. Employers might want to suggest their employees can come in later whilst they adjust," they added.

"We'd advocate the phasing out or eventual removal of DST, but whilst many people struggle over this period, many people enjoy the tradition and we understand it has its advantages too."

Of course, adjusting to one standardised time would have pros and cons, and there would be some downsides to losing DST.

Those endless summer evenings would shorten by an hour, and while it would no longer be dark by 4pm come winter, we'd have darker mornings during the colder months.

Scientists have said that DST can impact brain functions such as energy levels and alertness (Credit: Unsplash)
Scientists have said that DST can impact brain functions such as energy levels and alertness (Credit: Unsplash)

As we reset our clocks later this month, we'll be thinking about the wider implications for our bodily rhythms and taking simple steps like drinking plenty of water, eating nutritious food and going to bed that little bit earlier.

Because, while a 'one-hour transition' might not seem like a big deal, the science, medical and political communities appear to be losing a whole lot of sleep over it.

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

Topics: Science, Life News, Life, Health

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Mary-Jane Wiltsher

Mary-Jane Wiltsher is a freelance lifestyle and culture journalist. Elsewhere she writes for Stylist, Euronews, PHOENIX and What We Seee.