Daylight Saving Time
Worries that the clocks going forward cause sleep loss may lead to more accidents, goes back well over a hundred years, and was one of many arguments used against the intended introduction of daylight saving time (DST), first proposed in the UK by the enthusiastic William Willett. He was a wealthy builder who, in 1907, and at his own expense, produced the pamphlet, “Waste of Daylight”. In it he wrote, “That so many as 210 hours of daylight are to all intents and purposes wasted every year, is a defect in our civilisation. Let England recognise and remedy it. Let us not be so faint-hearted as to hesitate to make the effort when the cost is to trifling and the reward so great”. Inspiring stuff, and this is just a sample.
Mindful of sudden changes, he suggested adding 20 minutes to clocks each Sunday night for four consecutive weeks in the spring, accumulating to 80 minutes of daylight saving per day, and then to reverse this in the autumn. He even provided a detailed cost-benefit analysis, calculating that DST would save precisely £2,546,834 annually, for the whole nation. Unfortunately, despite the support of the young MP, Winston Churchill, Willett never lived to see DST becoming law, as he died of influenza in 1915. Ironically, the next year it was introduced as an emergency wartime measure, throughout Europe (even in Germany), but was then dropped after the war, ony to be gradually reintroduced. Sadly, his efforts are mostly forgotten, except in his home town of Pitts Wood, Kent, where there is a memorial sundial set permanently to DST, and a pub, The Daylight Inn.
Sunrise and morning daylight have powerful effects on our 24 hour body-clock, acting as our natural alarm clock, and enabling the early birds amongst us to ‘catch the worm’, and once upon a time ensured that we were awake and not ‘the worm’ when predators were up and about. Even today, as Dr Yvonne Harrison at Liverpool John Moore’s University, points out from her research, people living more westwards, but within the same time zone get up earlier than those more eastwards. Moreover, she finds that contrary to popular belief, the spring clock change is less likely cause a loss of an hour’s sleep that night, but rather, has more subtle effects on sleep disruption for several ensuing nights until adaptation. Whether this causes more early morning more road accidents still remains a controversial point, although she points out that any effects are less likely due to sleep loss but to darker roads that may be more icy. Whilst the brighter evenings are supposed to encourage us to get out and about more.