Once more, Europeans are changing their clocks this weekend to the wrong time zone, although there is mounting evidence that doing so harms public health and the economy. Over the past 30 years, more and more studies demonstrate the negative impact of how living in the wrong time zones has a negative impact on energy savings, risk of cancer and other diseases, performance of workers and students, or the GDP, amongst other issues.
Nevertheless, beliefs and myths around the need of maintaining Daylight Saving Time (DST) persist amongst the public opinion and the political debate. These beliefs are one of the key reasons why the EU has not yet taken a decision on ending clock change, extending the harmful effects it has for most of the population.
To start debunking some of these ideas, the International Alliance for Natural Time (IANT), in which BTUI participates, has launched a social media campaign with the most frequently asked questions they get around changing clocks and moving permanently to a natural time zone. And some of them might be surprising.
Given the current crisis, one of the key myths is that DST saves energy. Recent studies point out that either there is no effect, or even worse, DST could be making us spend more energy, given current consumption patterns, which increase the spending on cooling and heating.
Another common one is that it might hurt the economy, especially certain sectors such as tourism and leisure or retail. Regarding that argument, there are three issues to take into account. First, that the current setup is already hurting the economy by provoking sleep deprivation in a large part of the population, who as a consequence are less productive, have more accidents at work and take more sick leave. Second, during the work week, there is not much change under DST in terms of commerce, as people have to continue with their set social schedules. But at the weekend, most people sleep in to compensate for sleep deprivation, thus having less time to shop. Finally, it is summer and good weather, not DST, that drives tourism and leisure. Overall, the economy will benefit if DST is abolished and natural time zones are restored.
Finally, some people have the fear that stopping clock changes would mean they have to change their daily habits. IANT reassures us by explaining that since your habits are already constant throughout the year by clock time, they can remain the same. Moving to a natural time zone only means that we are adjusting the clock time to reflect the real time of day, which better aligns with our own circadian rhythms.
Permanent time zones, waiting for the Council of the European Union’s decision
Last October, a group of renowned experts presented a proposal on implementing permanent time zones in the European Union, as a way to help EU Member States finally take that decision. They are now asking the presidency trio of the Council of the European Union, which is the governing body of the Council and the upcoming 2023-2024 period will be formed by Spain, Belgium and Hungary, to add this topic on their agenda, so that a practical discussion can be held, and a solution implemented. The key argument to adopt this proposal is that misaligned clocks increase sleep deprivation and social jet-lag in the majority of the population, which is associated with significant negative effects on human health, economy, and safety, as shown by a large body of scientific publications in high ranking international journals.
The proposal involves aligning the different countries’ time zones as close as possible to their solar time. This means that each country will adopt the time zone that reflects their geographical situation (similar to time zones in the USA), thereby promoting health, economy, safety, and the environment.
“The proposal respects the conditions set out by the EU on how to end clock changes”, Ariadna Güell, co-coordinator of the BTUI stated. “Now, it is the turn of Member States, and specifically the presidency trio, to make the change possible”.