It’s that time of the year again, that weekend in October where a minor inconvenience for some and a small blessing for others unites Brits with a subject for small talk until, at the very least, Tuesday lunchtime.
That’s right, the clocks are going back, whether we like it or not.
If you’re part of the contingent of people who relish the one-off treat of an extra hour in bed, you’re in luck. If you’re someone who would willingly wake up in the dark in exchange for leaving work when there’s still a shred of sunlight outside, this is not your time, people. This is not your time.
Remember when we had a heatwave, you’ll think, firing up your floor lamps before you flop onto the sofa. Remember when the days stretched from 5am to 10pm, the world felt sunny, evergreen and endlessly fertile with possibility, as if we were truly in the Good Place.
Well, this is the Bad Place. And it’s called GMT.
So what’s the deal with the clocks changing – when is it happening this year, and might we eventually be able to ditch this bonkers practice altogether?
When Do The Clocks Go Back?
The clocks go back on the last Sunday of October – this year that’s this Sunday, 28 October. At 2am, the clocks will turn back to 1am again.
If you’re on a night out, you’re going to gain an extra hour before you have to go home. If you work the nightshift, the same probably applies. And if you’re fast asleep, then carry on as you are.
Why Do The Clocks Go Back?
It didn’t have to be like this. Benjamin Franklin was the first to suggest the idea in 1784, by the logic that it would save on candles. However William Willett – bizarrely for fact fans, the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin – brought the idea to the UK in 1907 with the publication of The Waste of Daylight, a leaflet that encouraged the general public to wake up earlier.
Willett felt that good sunlight was going to waste by sleeping through it, and also argued that it would save fuel during the war. Parliament passed the Summer Time Act, which brought the change into widespread use in 1916, a year after Willett died, having set in motion a course of events that would eventually lead us to, well, ‘Yellow’.
Does Clock-Changing Affect Our Sleep?
Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, has called the biannual switch-up of times the largest-scale sleep experiment in history for a reason – it actually can take a toll on how rested we’re left feeling as the seasons change.
An investigation by the German Bundestag found that changing your sleep routine by an hour can have jetlag-style knock-on effects that last for weeks.
Will This Culture Of Instability Ever End?
Maybe. Daylight savings time is, regardless of the good intentions behind its creation, a kind of chaotic energy in the present-day context.
Beyond its impacts on our sleep, the Automobile Association has estimated that if we stopped turning the clocks back, 100 lives would be saved each year in accidents due to fewer people driving in the dark.
Others argue that an extra hour of daylight in the evening is good for our emotional wellbeing – encouraging increased engagement in exercise, sport and leisure activities. The current change of clocks in autumn has also been shown to increase our chances of heart attack and stroke in the short-term.
As a result, in 2011, MP Rebecca Harris floated a bill calling for year-round daylight savings. The EU also ordered a review of changing the clocks in February this year.
So Why Not Abandon Daylight Savings?
There’s also a case against doing so. If we decided to adopt our summer hours in the UK all year round, it’s been pointed out that parts of Scotland wouldn’t see daylight until 10am.
We can’t promise 2018 will be the last year we change the clocks. Since Rebecca Harris floated her bill, there hasn’t been substantial support behind the notion of altering the current system. But the conversation – and clock – is still on the table.
In the meantime, we’re trying to take solace in the small novelty of watching our phones go from 01:59 to 01:00 again, because that’s sort of fun, right?
When Will The Clocks Go Forward Again?
Sunday, 31 March, 2019. We can see the light.