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Daylight Saving Time. Stop it.

February 12, 2024

Anneloes Opperhuizen

Monday morning, the last weekend of Match, is the start of the first week after Daylight Saving Time has taken place again. At the same time it is the moment we often literally feel that the social clock has shifted an hour. It causes sleep loss of one hour, a sudden change in mealtimes and this shift will take a couple of days to adjust to. It also causes the re-introduction of the discussion: why are we still doing this? And what if we were to quit, what should we choose? Scientists agree: stop the shift every half year and choose standard time.

You may possibly not really suffer from this one hour change, and it may even seem futile, but it is not. If we were to choose daylight savings time, which is called ‘summertime’ in the Netherlands, we will live in the wrong timezone for half a year. This adds on to the fact that we already permanently live in the wrong timezone as we – according to the sun – belong to the UK timezone. But why?

In short: Earth rotates arounds its axis every 24 hours, which causes different areas on Earth to be enlighted by the sun each hour. In this way you could divide the earth in 24 equal spaces: timezones. If you do this well, you can make sure that within each timezone, noon is the time that the sun reaches its highest point. That is why we call it mid-day. If you do this for The Netherlands, we belong to the timezone of the UK. But we are not in this timezone, ever. Even during winter, when we use ‘wintertime’ or standard time, we are off one hour. And during summer we add an extra hour onto this. This means that during summer we are trying to live in the timezone of Sint Petersburg (Russia) or Istanbul (Turkey) as the sun is then reaching it’s highest point there at noon. In the Netherlands this then would take another 1.5 hour.

Recommended time zones for the European continent (Source: Barcelona Time Use Intitiative for a Healthy Society)

So, what’s the problem? The rising and setting sun provides crucial information to our biological clock. The clock uses sunlight to know what time it is outside and how to adjust the body to this. Should it wake us up, prepare us for food, or make us sleepy? And this goes further, into functions such as metabolism, immune system, hormones, blood pressure and brain functions. They all depend on signals from the biological clock. Wrong light information will disturb our biological clock, leading to consequences for health. The most important and most prominent problem is a loss of sleep; a problem for millions of people.

The change of the clock twice per year causes a disturbed biological clock so we definitely support a permanent choice. But, it should be the correct choice: not daylight savings time. If we would choose ‘summertime’ it means we are going to (artificially) lengthen our nights in the morning and the days in the evening. This means the sun will rise ‘later’ which is not a problem during summer because it rises early enough. But during winter this is a large problem: the sun will rise at 9:45! Everyone who has to go to school or work in the Netherlands will have to travel in darkness for a long period. Especially adolescents will then have to rise far too early and bike to school with a sleepy brain. This is harmful and dangerous. We will particularly miss the morning light to be able to function normally. So: Stop the change and choose for the right time. That is standard time, but better yet the Central European Time. Summer won’t change with one hour less light at night but winter will definitely improve with morning light at 8 am!

Here you can find more information:

The alliance proposal for timezones in the EU assebled by international scientists.

Scientific article from international scientists on why daylight savings time should dissappear.

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The BioClock Consortium is funded by the NWA-ORC programme of the Dutch Research Council (NWO; project number 1292.19.077).